Two-time national champion Amherst opens women’s basketball season with new expectations

  • Amherst College head coach G.P. Gromacki and the women’s basketball team open the 2018-19 season as back-to-back undefeated national champions. The Mammoths have won 66 straight games. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 11/16/2018 8:47:22 PM

AMHERST — Over the last two seasons, winning has become an expectation for the Amherst College women’s basketball team. The expectation is not only that the Mammoths win, but that they win every game.

Amherst has repeated as Division III national champions with a 33-0 record each year.

Still, the nature of college athletics is that there’s a lot of turnover year to year. The Mammoths graduated three seniors and lost four of their five 6-footers, including Final Four MVP Emma McCarthy.

Amherst reset its expectations heading into the 2018-19 season.

“We know there’s a bull’s-eye on our back,” coach G.P. Gromacki said. “But we’re just focused on our own team. We lost some great players, but we’re focused on getting this team better every day and hopefully we peak in March.”

The development of the five freshmen will be the key to determine how far this year’s team can go. Other than 6-foot-1 Cam Hendricks, who had a dominant Final Four, most of Amherst’s size comes from its freshmen class.

“We have five new first years so hopefully they can get into the mix. The quicker they can pick things up the better off we’re going to be,” Gromacki said. “It’s a process, you can’t expect it to happen overnight, but hopefully they pick things up sooner than later and they’re ready to go earlier in the season than we hope for.”

Junior guards Madeline Eck and Hannah Fox round out the returning starters from last season. The two were the team’s leading scorers from last year with 11.8 and 11.3 points per game, respectively. All that Eck and Fox have known during their time at Amherst is winning. Yet, the process it takes to experience that success is not lost on either of them.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff to work on and we have a whole different team from last year,” Eck said. “It’s going to look a little different, but our goals are always the same: NESCAC championship and then later on national championship. Right now we’ll take it one game at a time.”

As the team’s starting point guard Fox feels an added responsibility in getting the team ready to perform this season.

“For me I’m going to do whatever I can to help, from a point guard’s perspective, put people in their best place to succeed,” Fox said. “With different people out on the court just figuring out how to put our best foot forward.”

The NESCAC has been one of the top leagues in Division III the past couple of seasons. Tufts finished with a 26-5 record and nearly knocked off Amherst in the NESCAC final last season. Meanwhile, Bowdoin finished second in the conference at 29-3 and met Amherst in the NCAA championship.

The Mammoths start their season this weekend with the “Amherst Tip-Off Tournament.” On Saturday, Amherst takes on Farmingdale State and on Sunday it’ll play Rensselaer.

“I’m just excited, not nervous,” Fox said. “I can’t wait to be back playing in LeFrak, the best place to play. We’re excited to start it off here with the tip-off tournament.”

NOTE: Granby sisters Meghan and Kate Sullivan return for the Mammoths.

Meghan, a senior, played in 18 games last season with three starts. She averaged 12 minutes and 3.1 ppg.

Kate, a sophomore, appeared in 27 games off the bench. She averaged 7.6 minutes per game.


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