AMHERST, Mass. – There's no denying the shine on the Amherst College women's basketball program, as the team takes to the court this year after an unblemished run to the national championship a year ago.
Much of the core of that team will return for the Mammoths this year, but head coach G.P. Gromacki, in his 11th season, knows that while great memories of last year remain, it will be all about 2017-18 when the team takes the court on Saturday evening to start their Tip-Off tournament against Lyndon State.
Ranked 3rd in the D3hoops.com preseason women's basketball poll, the Mammoths do feature 10 returners in their eleven-player roster, including senior captain Hannah Hackley and junior captain Emma McCarthy.
Having a good core back is going to be a good advantage for us," said Gromacki. "They experienced great things on and off the court from winning the national championship, and they know what they need to do if they want to do that again."
McCarthy averaged 9.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last year while shooting 51.6% from the field. Her best game was a 21 point, eight rebound performance in Amherst's 63-39 Third Round victory over Babson. Hackley averaged 8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
Moving into the starting role this year will be Madeline Eck '20, who played every game last year, averaging 18.2 minutes and 7.4 points per game.
At the point guard position, Hannah Fox '20 and Maeve McNamara '19 will each have the opportunity to take on a lead role, while Jackie Nagle '18 and Natalie Nardella '20 both play inside the paint for the Mammoths.
Sophomore Cam Hendricks is a long, athletic shooter who can play both inside and out and will be part of an offensive attack that should be deadly from beyond the three-point line.
Last year the Mammoths shot 32.8% from downtown and averaged 69.4 points per game while holding opponents to just 40 points and 28.9 percent from the field.
For Coach Gromacki, the tag of defending national champions doesn't come with any more of a target on the back of his team than usual, as they compete in a nationally renowned New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), the best athletic and academic combination in the country. He also knows that last year's perfect record won't define this year's success.
"Knowing how hard it is to do, our goal has never been to go undefeated. Our goal is to win a national championship. We're just finding a way to get there and it doesn't matter what happens on the way there."
The pursuit of that national championship begins on Saturday evening against Lyndon State, and continues on Sunday as the Mammoth's tip-off tournament wraps up. An early non-conference game with Wesleyan at home on November 21st will close out the pre-Thanksgiving tournament. The rest of the schedule is highlighted by a trip to Las Vegas and California over the New Year's break, a home game against Williams on January 17th, and a rematch of the national championship game when Tufts comes to town on February 2nd.