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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In women’s hoop, Rivier rolls on, Daniel Webster College rebuilds

NASHUA – There has been so much focus on the men’s basketball teams at Daniel Webster College and Rivier University in the past week because of the Midnight Madness game, it was easy to forget who had the best seasons out of all the local college hoop teams a year ago:

The Rivier and DWC women. ...

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NASHUA – There has been so much focus on the men’s basketball teams at Daniel Webster College and Rivier University in the past week because of the Midnight Madness game, it was easy to forget who had the best seasons out of all the local college hoop teams a year ago:

The Rivier and DWC women.

The Raiders had a great regular season (15-10 overall, 8-4 league) but faltered in the quarterfinals of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference tourney, and the Eagle women, who played in the NCAA Division III tourney a couple of years ago, made it to the New England Collegiate Conference semis.

Both are going in different directions this year, though. The Eagles are adjusting to life without the best player in school history, Vanessa Bosques, and a new coach, former longtime Siena College assistant Andrea Woodbury. It has added up to a rebuilding mode; DWc was picked seventh in the NECC in the preseason.

The Raiders, on the other hand, have added depth and are looking to rely less on arguably the conference’s best player, Hudson’s Deanna Purcell. They were picked fourth in a preseason GNAC poll and open on Tuesday in Concord vs. Plymouth State in the New Hampshire Technical Institute (NHTI) tourney.

“We have much higher hopes, and larger aspirations, Raiders coach Paul Williams said. “We have a lot to build off of. It’s nice to be able to walk away from a season, in retrospect, after having the second most successful season in the history of the school and being disappointed by that.”

The Raiders have all five starters back – in fact, they return their first eight off the floor.

“And,” said Williams, “we’re very excited about a few new people who are in as well.”

They include 5-foot-7 freshman guard Caitlyn Perry (Nashua High School South), 5-10 freshman forward Savanna Butterfield (Tilton School, Londonderry) and Rebecca DeBaldo from Pelham, a 5-6 freshman forward.

But of course, the experience comes with last year’s starts, although Williams has had wide open competition for the lineup. Purcell, of course, averaged 22.6 points a game for the Raiders as a sophomore at small forward and was the fastest player in GNAC history to reach the 1,000 point mark.

Senior power forward returnee A.J. Guidi averaged 13.5 points and team high 6.5 rebounds a game; starting point guard Ryan Baker (senior) is back along with backcourt mate senior Erin Sweeney, starting senior 5-8 center Laura Yesu. But all the spots, Williams said, were up in the air – in fact, he didn’t even post a preseason roster on line as emphasis that every player had to return to start fresh.

“Everyone was told at the end of the year their spot was up and they had to come back and earn it,” he said. “This team has a different type of investment. It’s a matter of going back in that worker mentality and understanding we have to work for everything. … Practice has been extremely competitive.

“We were so close to the GNAC championship game (two-point semis loss in 2012) that we thought last year we returned enough we were going to walk right into that. Now we know there’s a lot more work that goes into that.”

Williams wants to see more rebounding and defending, and feels he’s brought in the players to do that.

Purcell, meanwhile, should continue to be a force. “But overall,” Williams said, “we’re not a one trick pony. She’s worked hard in the off-season.”

DWC women’s hoop

And the Eagles?

They suffered two tough starts to their season, 101-31 to the University of New England and 72-38 to Westfield State in the Ramada Roundball Invitational.

Life is, indeed, different now for the Eagles

“It’s definitely changing an attitude,” Woodbury said. “Last year they were all role players behind that one player. Now they’ll have to step up. But being realistic, if we can get three kids in double figures every game, we can be competitive. They’re all working hard to try to do that.”

The key returnee is 5-8 sophomore Ashley Giampetruzzi out of Manchester, who averaged 11.1 points and 6.9 rebounds a game last year.

“She’s the kind of player who is going to be playing both inside and outside,” Woodbury said. “She’s definitely one who should be a consistent contributor.”

As Woodbury noted, there’s not a lot of size and not much experience with only two seniors, guards Jen Fredericks and Ariel Guzman. The Eagles have five freshmen on a roster of 12. Sophomore guard Ashley England is another key. A former teammate of Giampetruzzi at Central, 5-8 freshman Katherine Johnson, was named to the weekend’s All-Tourney team.

“We’re going to be more of a transition team with speed and quickness,” Woodbury said. “And that’s what my challenge is, getting them to change the mentality a little bit, be more aggressive, battle on the boards. It’s a work in progress.”

Tourney run ends

The work is done for the Rivier women’s volleyball team, who went into the East Regional at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. Friday afternoon as the seventh seed and were swept in three sets by Richard Stockton College of Galloway Township, N.J. The Raiders made it close, falling 25-16 but then 25-23, 25-22 to wind up the season at 27-9. A 13-4 RSC run – it was the school’s 26th straight win – in the third set did Rivier in.

Meanwhile, SUNY-New Paltz ended RSC’s streak with a second round eliminiation win.

Consolation? Rivier senior Nicole Peacock, as expected, was named the GNAC Player of the Year. Three years ago, ironically, she was named the conferences Rookie of the Year.

Joining her on GNAC first team were junior Emily O’Reilly and freshman Molly McCormack. Seniors Jessica Amiral and Nicole Boucher were named to the All-Conference second team.

There are sure to be more regional and national honors to follow for the Raiders.

Fast start

Don’t look now, but the DWC men’s basketball team could be a team to watch this winter. After topping Riv last Friday, the Eagles took the Ramada Roundball Invitational in Biddeford, Me., beating Norwich in the title game 62-57.

Eric Webster was named tourney MVP (47 points in two games) and the 3-0 start is the second in school history and first since 2008-09.