2000 Season Preview|
November 22, 2000
AMHERST, MA - Six first-years, four sophomores, one junior and one senior hardly sounds like the lineup for a veteran-heavy, deep and talented basketball team, but this year's Amherst women's hoops squad is just that, returning thee starters and two key contributors from last year's 15-9 team, and welcoming an incoming class as large as it is deep.
"It's definitely going to be a factor that we're so young," said Co-captain Charlotte Taylor '01. "But it can also be an advantage."
Taylor will anchor the Jeffs from the small forward, where she started 13 games as a junior, including six 10-plus point games, the first coming in her first career start in the Jeffs' 65-62 win over Smith College that kicked off a season-long six-game winning streak.
One of the early-season challenges facing the Jeffs will be replacing the two seniors lost from last year's squad, sharpshooter Liza Feldman '00 and the NESCAC's leading scorer - power forward Naomi Sullivan '00. Sullivan's 18.7 points per game will be hard to replace, but this year's team will feature a more balanced attack, something Taylor is excited about.
"It's always much healthier for a team to have a balanced offense," said the senior. "We have a number of different people who can score this year."
Tops among that list will be 6'2" center Sarah Walker '03, returning from a sensational rookie season. Starting all 24 games for the Jeffs, Walker became one of the league's dominant inside players, averaging 9.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game - second in the league. In her fourth career game - the Jeffs' 54-43 win over Keene State College - Walker tallied 12 points and 20 rebounds, one shy of the single-game school record. She would add five more double-doubles over the course of the season, providing a 1-2 punch with Sullivan inside.
This year, Walker will also have help inside, with the addition of newcomers
Sarah Bergman '04 and Caitlin Farrell '04. Thanks to 6'2" Bergman and 6'3" Farrell,
the trio gives the Jeffs one of the biggest - and most talented - front lines in the
The squad also has plenty of depth in the backcourt, anchored by Sara Bozorg
'03, who, like Walker, started every game for the 1999-2000 squad. Bozorg dished out
a team-best 4.1 assists per game during her rookie season, adding 6.6 points, 3.8
rebounds and just over two assists per outing running the Amherst offense. Along
with Bozorg, Co-captain Hallison Putnam '02 returns to the backcourt, along with a
very talented group of newcomers, led by sweet-shooting Shannon Russell '04. Bozorg,
Putnam and Russell will give Head Coach Billy McBride plenty of options in his
starting backcourt, with support off the bench from newcomers LaShauna Barboza '04,
a silky point guard, and sharp shooter Marissa McGuire '04.
Unlike last year, when the squad only used a rotation of seven or eight
players, all 12 members of the 2000-01 squad will be asked to contribute, including
newcomers Kelly Potanka '03 and Ana
Yarawamai '04, and second-year player Brooke Diamond '03. Altogether, the Jeffs,
though young, feature a balanced attack, and a team that figures to be among the
"Keene State [College, the Jeffs' second game] should be a good challenge for us, " said Taylor. "We just need to come out from the start of the season playing our best."
Before the Jeffs face the Owls in their road opener two weeks from tonight, they open the season at home on Tuesday night, November 28, when they host the Mount Holyoke College Lyons. After Keene, the Jeffs have away games at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Western New England College and Wellesley College - always one of the strongest teams on Amherst's schedule - before home games against Clark University and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy wrap up the pre-Christmas schedule.
After Christmas, conference play begins for the squad, including a five-game stretch in which they play at arch-rival Williams College, home against Wesleyan University, home against Williams, at Middlebury College and home for Bates College, the 1999-2000 NESCAC champions.
"The big challenge is going to be Bates," said Taylor. "They've definitely been the best team in the NESCAC, with a bunch of teams behind them."
New during the 2000-2001 season, though, is the NESCAC Tournament, a seven-team draw at the end of the season, with the champion advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The Jeffs are young now, but by the time the NESCAC Tournament rolls around, look for them to be one of the teams to beat in one of the nationŐs elite conferences.