Women's Basketball | Expectations high entering new season
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 16, 2012 07:11
Many teams in Tufts’ position would be entering the new season with a degree of entitlement and overconfidence.
After reaching the Sweet 16 in last year’s NCAA tournament — the second furthest run in program history — and returning four starters and all but two players, the Jumbos are ranked No. 17 in the d3hoops.com pre-season poll, their highest such ranking since the 2008-2009 season. Meanwhile, NESCAC rival Amherst, winners of three straight NESCAC titles and eight straight games against Tufts, is in a rebuilding phase, and is ranked at just No.15, its lowest preseason mark since 2008-2009.
But not many teams are coached by Carla Berube.
“I really don’t care what the national perception is. I go into every year with the same outlook, and I have very high expectations,” Berube said. “I had high expectations last year for the team when other people didn’t. The expectations are to bring it every single day in practice and play at a very high level, game in and game out, no matter who we’re playing.”
“I think it’s nice that we have some respect based off of last year, but I think going into the season that really means nothing,” added co-captain Kate Barnosky, a graduate student at the university this year. “It’s nice that people respect what we did last year, but we want to exceed the expectations and do even better than what our rankings are right now.”
The team’s workmanlike attitude comes very much from its style of play. The Jumbos aren’t flashy — they don’t have an elite scorer, and they aren’t going to score 70 or 80 points game in and game out. This past season, Barnosky led the team with 9.2 points per game. Only one other player on the squad, Tiffany Kornegay (LA ’12), averaged more than seven points per game.
What the team does do well is play defense. Tufts has been in the top four in the NESCAC in scoring defense in each of the past six years, and had the third-best scoring defense in the nation last season. The defensive effort starts at the top with the leadership of Berube, and each player on the roster buys into the philosophy.
“We joke going into day one about how many days it will be before we take a shot,” Barnosky said. “Coach’s motto is defense first, and that’s what we pride ourselves on. The atmosphere she’s built here really catches on with every player.”
While it takes a team to build an elite defense, it also takes individual shutdown performances. Berube has been able to draw those out of her players consistently, and Jumbos have won five straight NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year awards, with Kornegay’s the most recent. With the talented rebounder and ball thief gone, Berube is confident that other players are ready and willing to pick up the slack.
“[Junior guard] Caitlin [McClure] brings a great energy defensively, and I think [senior co-captain] Bre [Dufault] does, too,” she said. “Having both a post player and a wing player constantly talking and constantly moving is really beneficial. Caitlin is really a pest to play against, just because she’s really active and has really good instincts defensively and rebounding. With Bre, it’s tough to play against her. She’s very athletic and wiry, and it’s hard for post players to get a body on her because she moves around so well.”
McClure, who averaged 21 minutes a game as a sophomore, will likely also be a key cog in the Tufts offense with the loss of contributors like Kornegay and senior Collier Clegg, who is not on this year’s roster. McClure showed signs of excellence in her first year receiving significant minutes, including a 14-point outburst in an early season upset of Williams that set the tone for the team’s deep run. With junior guard Liz Moynihan out to start the season, the team will need even more from McClure.
The team’s offensive capabilities will also be defined by sophomore point guard Kelsey Morehead’s play. As a freshman replacing one of the greatest players in program history, point guard Colleen Hart (E ’11). Morehead was thrown right in to the fire, averaging nearly 30 minutes per game. She proved up to the task, but Tufts still had the comfort of letting Kornegay handle the ball at times. Now the training wheels are off, and its Morehead’s show to run.
“She’s our floor general,” Berube said of Morehead. “I don’t want her to have to play 30 minutes a game, but she’s the one we want out there. She’s more confident, more vocal, and she has a better understanding of where the ball needs to be and whose hands it needs to be in.”