WILLIAMSTOWN - The Williams College women’s basketball team will be going back to the past on Sunday afternoon. It will be the only time Eph head coach Pat Manning wants her team looking backwards.
Because of the NCAA Division III volleyball tournament being played at Chandler Gym this weekend, all of the college basketball games have been shuffled around. The men and women have season-opening invitationals, and first-round games have been moved to MCLA’s Amsler Campus Center. But when the Ephs play Plattsburgh State Sunday afternoon, that game will be played at ancient Lasell Gym.
"I think it’s going to be fun. The last time we played there was 2001 and we beat Middlebury. It was a really fun atmosphere," said Manning. "Once every 12 or 13 years, it’s fun.
"When I used to coach against [Williams], I was at Smith getting my masters in the late 1980s, I remember coming here and having to play in Lasell. It’s a really fun place to play. Our kids play pickup there all fall, so they’re comfortable there."
The Ephs made program history a year ago with their first-ever trip to an NCAA Division III Final Four. Williams gave undefeated DePauw all it could handle before falling 59-56 in the national semifinal. Williams came back a day later and beat Amherst 57-53 in the consolation game.
"They’re really excited to prove what they can do. It was exciting last year, but it was dominated by our seniors, which it should have been," said Manning. "That was their year. These other kids practiced against great players every day. They’re ready to show what they can do."
Williams graduated four of its top five scorers from last year, a group that included All-American and NESCAC player of the year Claire Baecher.
The top returning scorer is junior guard Ellen Cook, who was No. 2 on the team with a 10.1 point average. Cook was also No. 2 on the team in 3-point baskets made per game.
Manning has a "small" team with only 11 players on the varsity roster and none of them are seniors. In basketball terms, it is not a small team. Guards MaryKate O’Brien and Devon Caveney are both under 5-10, but the other nine players are between 5-10 and 6-2.
"That’s one thing that’s really exciting. We can put kids into different roles," said the Eph coach. "We have a lot of kids who can play inside or outside. We’re not so specific with who’s a guard and who’s a post."
The Ephs have three freshmen and five sophomores who will get playing time. One of the sophomores is 5-foot-10 guard Jane Thompson, who transferred to Williams after making the University of Minnesota women’s team as a walk-on.
"She’s a very good player. She practiced every day with a D-I team, so I think that definitely helped her," said Manning. "She’s a guard. It’s perfect timing for her to come in.