The Amherst women's basketball team is fresh off the program's sixth NESCAC title, and the team's sixth NCAA Division III Final Four appearance since 2009. Under the direction of 10th-year head coach, and 2015-16 NESCAC Coach of the Year, G.P. Gromacki, the Purple & White, who return all but three players from their national semifinalist squad a year ago, are poised to once again make a deep run in the NCAA postseason.
In a tremendously successful 2015-16 campaign that saw Amherst win its first 21 games of the regular season, the Purple & White extended their nation-leading home win streak to 121 games before falling to Tufts, 52-51 at LeFrak Gymnasium in early February. Amherst rebounded in outstanding fashion, winning its next nine games which included a 50-49 triumph over the Jumbos in the conference championship game. The Purple & White advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 2012-13, and finished the season with a 30-2 overall record.
"We return a lot of players who have had a taste of the Final Four, and want to get back there," stated Gromacki. "Our seniors want to go out with a national championship."
The 2016-17 version of Amherst women's basketball features nine players from last year's Final Four team, including three seniors, three juniors, and three sophomores, and welcomes in five newcomers. The Purple & White begin their journey towards another league title Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 19-20 with tip-off tournament action against Albertus Magnus at 6 p.m. Saturday evening. Non-league road games at Wesleyan (Little III) and Emmanuel follow on Nov. 22 and Nov. 29 respectively, before Amherst returns home for a tilt with Eastern Connecticut State on Dec. 1. Matchups at Randolph-Macon (Dec. 3), at Bridgewater State (Dec. 13), at Chapman (Dec. 28) and against SUNY Oneonta (Dec. 29) ensue; while the team's final home contest of the 2016 portion of the slate takes place on Dec. 5 against Rhode Island College.
Amherst begins the 2017 half of its schedule with four of its first five games at LeFrak Gymnasium. The Purple & White host rival Williams in its NESCAC opener Jan. 6, followed by Albright (Jan. 9). A road game at Farmingdale State follows on Jan. 9, before the Purple & White welcome Wesleyan (Jan. 13) and Conn. College (Jan. 14) to the Pioneer Valley. Amherst closes out January with four of its next five games on the road including NESCAC bouts at Bowdoin (Jan. 20) and Colby (Jan. 21), before hosting Lehman on Jan. 23. It then takes on the Ephs in Little III action on Jan. 25 before traveling to Trinity (Jan. 28). Staying on the road, the Purple & White travel to Bates (Feb. 3) and Tufts (Feb. 4), before hosting Middlebury (Feb. 10) and Hamilton (Feb. 11) on the final weekend of the regular season.
The Amherst backcourt returns D3hoops.com All-American, and First Team All-NESCAC selection Ali Doswell '17. Ali averaged 14.3 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, registered a 42.2 field goal percentage, and connected on 36.7% of her shots from three-point range last season. Scoring in double figures in all but 10 games in 2015-16, she netted a collegiate career-high 34 points in the Purple & White's win over Rowan University (March 5) in the NCAA Second Round, and scored over 20 points on two other occasions. Ali is currently ranked tenth on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,136 points and 11th in assists (242).
Classmate Jaimie Renner '17 averaged 7.4 points per game last year, collected a team-high 93 assists, and a team-best 56 steals. She is now tenth on the program's all-time assists list with 244 helpers. Renner collected personal game-highs in rebounds (7), assists (8), blocks (4) and steals (7) in 2016, helping Amherst advance to the NCAA Final Four for a sixth time.
The Purple & White also return Meghan Sullivan '19 and Jenna Schumacher '18 who each missed a significant portion of the season due to injury, while JJ Daniell '19, and Maeve McNamara '19 will look to build on stellar first-year campaigns in 2016-17. The Amherst backcourt also features Madeline Eck '20, and Hannah Fox '20, who will both aim to make an immediate impact on the court.
Amherst will have to do without the services of WBCA Honorable Mention All-American and All-NESCAC honoree Marley Giddins '16, who, despite being injured for most of the season, was able to impress during the 2015-16 campaign. The Purple & White return Meredith Doswell '17, who will serve as co-captain along with her sister Ali in 2016-17. Meredith averaged 9.4 points per game, and a team-best 7.9 boards per contest a year ago. She currently sits in 12th on the program's all-time rebounds list (573), 19th on the team's assists list (181), and sixth on the career blocks list with 100.
Returning to the frontcourt are juniors Hannah Hackley and Jackie Nagle who will provide experience and depth at the forward position. Hackley averaged 11.5 points per game last year including a collegiate career-high 27 points at Conn. College last January. Nagle averaged 6.4 rebounds per game in 2015-16 and scored a collegiate career-best 17 points at Baruch, and pulled in a collegiate career-high 14 rebounds last winter.
Not yet a member of the Friends of Amherst Women's Basketball for the 2016-17 year? Become a first-time member of or renew your membership in the FAA and support Coach Gromacki and the women's basketball program. Make a gift ahead of the team's first home game on Saturday, November 19 against Albertus Magnus at LeFrak Gymnasium. Go Amherst!