AMHERST, Mass. – How do you build off of the momentum of two straight undefeated national titles while also turning the page to a new campaign and incorporating a group of first years who haven't been to the top of the mountain yet?
That is what Head Coach G.P. Gromacki and the Mammoths will hope to navigate when they tip off the 2018-19 season on Saturday evening as the two-time defending national champions and currently on a 66-game winning streak.
"For the people that are returning, I'm sure there is some carryover," said Gromacki, the 2018 D3Hoops.com National Coach of the Year. "They know what they have done and what they're trying to do again. The new people are trying to continue a tradition."
Fox and Eck averaged 11 points a game last season, while Hendricks was the leading three-point shooter on the squad, shooting 37.5% from distance. Fox, also a D3Hoops.com All American, was named to the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament team last season and finished the championship game with twelve points, three assists, two steals, and seven rebounds. Eck had eight points, seven boards, three assists, and three steals. Hendricks had two huge three-pointers during the title win over Bowdoin.
"Bringing back three starters from last year's team is a huge help. They have been there before and now they've just got to step into leadership roles," said Gromacki. "The junior class hasn't lost a game in their careers and I think they are probably pretty aware of where we stand from a historical point of view," he added in reference to the possibility of breaking the NCAA Division III record for consecutive victories. The Mammoths would need 16 more wins to top the mark currently held by Washington University (MO).
The other two players who enter the year with a pair of rings are senior guards Maeve McNamara and Meghan Sullivan. In addition to winning the Elite 90 Award for the highest GPA of any player at the Final Four last year, Sullivan averaged 12.3 minutes and 3.1 points per game.
McNamara, who will miss the beginning of the season while she competes for the national championship with Amherst Women's Soccer, came off the bench in all 33 games last season, averaging 3.5 points and 1.3 assists per game while shooting 35.1% from three-point land.
Kate Sullivan '21 played in 27 games as a first year and made the most of her first playoff appearance, scoring four points in the final two minutes of the national championship game.
Amherst will add five first-year players to their core this season, guards Gabrielle Zaffiro (Glen Head, N.Y.), Lauren Pelosi (Middlebury, Conn.) and Courtney Resch (San Francisco, Calif.) and forwards Jade DuVal (Cleveland, Ohio) and Dani Valdez (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.).
According to Gromacki, it is most important that the first year players are comfortable on the defensive side in his system, no surprise for a team that broke the NCAA record last year by holding opponents to 38.8 points per game.
Defensive efficiency has been the hallmark of Gromacki's teams, who have led the nation in scoring defense for each of the last three seasons.
"I think we get a lot of respect of our ability and us as a program," said Gromacki, whose 12th season on the bench will begin against Farmingdale State and RPI this weekend. "I think as Division 3 goes, people that follow us believe we run one of the best programs in the country."