NORTH ADAMS — The MCLA women's basketball team plays only one of its first six games at home to open the 2015-16 season. That's not the easiest way to start out, but head coach Holly McGovern said she's hopeful the Trailblazers will be ready.
"It's a good thing for us," said McGovern. "In the past few seasons, we have not been great on the road. Our record on the road is something you don't really want to chat about.
"For us right now, it's learning how to play on the road, how to be acquainted with other road teams, and how to play better."
McGovern's team opens play Saturday afternoon in the first round of the Smith College Tyler Tip-Off Tournament. MCLA will play Rochester Institute of Technology in the second game of a doubleheader. In the opener, the hosts will play Curry College. The consolation and championship games will be Sunday.
"We're going to be 22 practices in. So, to that point, we've been working on our concepts defensively and trying to get better," said McGovern. "That's the best way to go to create our offense."
MCLA won't play at home until facing SUNY-Cobleskill on Saturday, Nov. 21. It's the only time the Trailblazers will be at home until December.
McGovern's team went 7-18 last season. This year, the Trailblazers are picked to finish sixth in the seven-team MASCAC. Framingham State is the coaches' preseason pick to win the conference.
MCLA has three Berkshire County players on the roster in junior Courtney McLaughlin from Pittsfield, sophomore Emily Moulton from Drury and freshman McKenzie Robinson from Hoosac Valley.
"The last couple of seasons, Berkshire County has been pretty good to us," said McGovern. "Between McLaughlin, Moulton and now McKenzie coming in. Each one of them brings something different, a very different style of play. They can all come in and contribute."
McLaughlin is the No. 2 returning scorer for the Trailblazers. The former Pittsfield High School player averaged 10 points per game, behind junior frontcourt player Kayla Hotaling's 11 points per game. Moulton averaged nearly 13 minutes a game coming off the bench last year, while Robinson will battle for some time at point guard.
Right now, McGovern said that she could pick eight players in a rotation with Hotaling and Ashley Clawson the only two players the coach said she's sure will be starting Saturday afternoon.
There were no seniors on last year's MCLA team, so the group is back, along with freshmen Robinson, Sam Gawron, Karina Mattera and Courtney Pingelski.
Robinson and Gawron are old rivals. Gawron played for South Hadley, a team Robinson's Hoosac squad beat in last year's Western Massachusetts Division III semifinals. Gawron is coming off a shoulder injury and will be eased back into game actin.
"I hope at this point, it's a building year," said the MCLA coach, who is beginning her 11th season. "I know that our record may not have been as recognizable in the last couple of seasons with the way we played. There are a lot of good things in place, so it's time for us to turn the corner."