Senior co-captain Nicole Hayner finished her junior season with 819 minutes played and led the team in 3-point field goals. (Courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics)
As the final year of UMass Lowell’s Division I transition comes underway, the women’s basketball team travels to face the Towson Tigers on Friday, followed by a match up against No. 6 Maryland.
With seven new faces added to the team, this will prove to be the first test for the River Hawks.
Having ended the last season with a 4-24 record, despite several close games, the River Hawks look to add more to their win column, both in conference and out of conference.
“Some of the very narrow ones at the end came down to not having bodies, we were so injury prone last year. Just having fresh legs on the floor is crucial,” said head coach Jenerrie Harris. Coach Harris is in her third year with the program.
The team will not begin play against another America East team until Jan. 4, when they will square off against the University of Albany. In the 2015-16 season, UMass Lowell led the conference in three pointers, with 33.2% of their shots made. The River Hawks ranked third in the America East on assists, with a total of 332 in 28 games, and fourth in points, averaging 58.1 per game.
Last season’s River Hawks were led by offensive powerhouses, Lindsey Doucette and Melissa Frase, who led the team in points and assists respectively.
“Lindsey [Doucette] and Mel [Frase] are probably some of the greatest competitors that we’ve had a chance to coach in our time here,” said coach Harris.
Despite the loss of two of the team’s most dominant players, coach Harris noted that “we’re replacing two with seven, so that’s been fun.”
With five freshmen, the young River Hawks will have a lot of work ahead of them this season. Four of the freshmen are true freshmen, while the fifth, Amanda Ortiz, transferred to UMass Lowell last spring and will enter her first season with the River Hawks this year.
The team also added two transfers to the roster. Junior forward Kiana Batagelj and graduate studies forward Tyshay Britten bring experience from playing in the Junior College system.
“We have a lot of new faces and my hope is just that we can put all those pieces together quicker than teams typically do. I think that we’re gonna be a different team in the second half of the year than we will be now,” coach Harris said.
With eight members of last year’s squad returning for this season, the River Hawks look to get a strong start to the season.
Nicole Hayner and Asia Mitchell-Owens, co-captains of the team, led in three pointers last year and were behind only Frase for assists.
Junior forward Kayla Gibbs was second to only Doucette in scoring last season, earning an average of 11.9 points per game. Combining the talents of last year’s offensively driven squad with the talents of the incoming class will prove to be the key for the team.
“I think that if we can put our best product out on the floor that we can be right now… sooner than later… in terms of our chemistry, our focus, and people playing off one another tendencies, that would make for a really great start,” said coach Harris.