Berkshire Eagle: "With new players dotting roster, MCLA women's basketball team can be 'as good as they want to be"
NORTH ADAMS — The MCLA women's basketball team graduated its top four scorers from last year's 5-19 team. So, it is kind of like starting anew inside the Amsler Campus Center gymnasium.
"A bunch of newcomers," fourth-year head coach Loren Stock said. "We needed it."
Five first-years and four transfers make up more than half of the 2019-20 Trailblazers. MCLA opens its season on Saturday at Springfield.
One of the five first-year players is Drury graduate Brooke DiGennaro.
"We've had a lot of team bonding," said DiGennaro. "I think we have a lot of different talents that we just have to put together in a game."
It is never easy when a team loses its leading scorer. But when your top four are gone, that's a real issue.
Courtney Pingelski (10.1 points per game), L'rae Brundage (8.5), Sam Gawron (6.3) and McKenzie Robinson (4.9) took their points away in June. Gawron and Robinson were among the team leaders in rebounding.
"We're definitely going to be able to do some different things," said Stock. "We'll see a little bit of stuff we did last year, but different offensive sets. We have a different look. We're guard-heavy. That three-four spot is going to be key. We can play tall, we can play short. It'll be exciting.
"I'm hoping to be a little more athletic this year, and hoping to run more."
The fourth-year head coach was asked about the five frosh players, and who stood out.
"Maddie Teta from [Troy, N.Y.], she's a true point guard, comes in, isn't rattled and works hard," the coach said. "She's very, very coachable. She's somebody that definitely stuck out. We felt that way when we were recruiting her."
In addition to the five freshmen, Hayley Jones and Di'Asia Smith come over from Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Community College. Two others, Aliesha Thomas and Liv Pressley, arrived in North Adams from schools that closed. Thomas averaged 13.5 points at the College of St. Joseph, while Pressley comes from Southern Vermont.
"I'm real excited about Hayley Jones from Hudson Valley, and Olivia Pressley from SVC. I'm very excited to see what they can contribute to the team this year," said Stock. "Preseason was fun, building chemistry and getting this group together."
Ironically, the vast majority of this team comes from New York State. There are four from Massachusetts, including DiGennaro, while senior Kylah Langston — the top returning scorer at 6.6 points per game — is from East Hartford, Conn.
DiGennaro is the Berkshire County representative right now. The former Blue Devil standout has really enjoyed her time so far.
"I think [the adjustment] has been really good," she said. "I feel like back when I was in high school, I had coaches that prepared me for this. I really think the transition from the structure that Coach Stock has given us is really very different. I love playing with these girls."
The Trailblazers are picked last in the seven-team MASCAC. Framingham State is the preseason No. 1 team, with Westfield State No. 2. Westfield has won four straight MASCAC tournament titles. MCLA's last tourney title came in 2010.
MCLA's schedule is challenging. The Trailblazers will open at home on Nov. 13, against SUNY Cobleskill. They will play Williams at Williams on Nov. 16, and will host NESCAC squad Trinity on Dec. 1.
The MCLA women "can be as good as they want to be," said Stock. "They have to put the work in, and that's something you'll see throughout the season. It's all about putting that work in and seeing if we can improve in the second semester."