Williams women confident as basketball season opens
WILLIAMSTOWN >> Two members of last year's Williams College women's basketball team accounted for nearly a third of the Ephs' points during the 2014-15 season. Both of them, Ellen Cook and Kellie Macdonald, have graduated.
Despite that, the confidence level at Chandler Gym is pretty high.
"I think we're all very confident. We're excited to get going," said Williams senior forward Oge Uwanaka. "We have a lot of raw talent. We're excited to put them to work.
"We've shown so much potential in practice."
Uwanaka and the Ephs hit the Chandler court for real tonight in the Williams Tip-Off Tournament. The Ephs will play in the 6 p.m. opener against Wheaton (2-0), while RPI (1-1) faces Babson (2-0) in the nightcap.
The second round will be played Sunday with Williams against Babson and Wheaton playing RPI.
If the basketball you see this weekend doesn't look familiar, that's not a huge surprise. Women's basketball shifted some of its rules. Instead of two, 20-minute halves, teams will play four, 10-minute quarters. And there will be no 1-and-1 free throw shooting. After five team fouls in a quarter, teams will shoot two free throws. The foul total goes back to zero for each quarter.
Williams coach Pat Manning enters her 27th season coming off consecutive 20-win seasons and three straight trips to the NCAA Division III tournament. Williams averaged nearly 64 points per game with Cook and Macdonald accounting for 22 of those points.
"In 2013, we lost 80 percent of our scoring and we did OK," said Manning, referring to a team that went to the Final Four.
That was a slight understatement. The Ephs won 20 games and made it to the NCAA Tournament in 2014.
"Kellie and Ellen were tremendous players for us. I think other kids were kind of in their shadows a little bit," said Manning. "It's kind of fun to see who's going to step up.
"Kids have been kind of waiting their turn. I see a real sense of purpose and urgency among our returners. They want to show what they can do."
Williams returns three starters from last year in junior guard Devon Caveney, senior center Katie Litman and sophomore guard Amanni Fernandez.
Those three will start along with Uwanaka and junior Lauren McCall. That's a pretty tall starting lineup as Litman is listed at 6-foot-2-inches, McCall is 6-1, Uwanaka is 5-11, while Caveney is 5-7 and Fernandez is also 5-7.
"I think this team could be very good," said Manning. "We have a challenge because we're only home for 10 [games]. We're on the road for a lot of critical games, so it'll be interesting to see how we do on the road.
Last year's sophomore class of Fernandez, Lydia Zaleski and Kristin Fechtelkotter has been boosted by transfer Val Oyakhilome. Oyakhilome averaged 4.1 points and 2.6 rebounds in 26 games for Division I Fairleigh Dickinson, where she played for Lee native Peter Cinella.
Manning is also excited about her crop of first-years: guards Lexi Jones and Lauren Vostal, guard/forward Caroline Lovisolo and forward Masen Boucher.
"I have kind of a special feeling about this team. I think they're focused and ready. I can't wait to see what they do."
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