WALTHAM, Mass. – Over the last two seasons, Bentley University women's basketball has experienced both the pinnacle with an undefeated 2014 NCAA Division II national championship and an injury-plagued rebuilding season that concluded with the program's first sub-.500 record.
Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach Barbara Stevens will begin her 30th season directing the Falcons fortunes this weekend with the hope that the combination of ten returning letterwinners, led by preseason All-America post Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy), and a promising group of freshmen will get the Falcons back on the winning track.
The new campaign will get underway with a 2 pm contest at Holy Family and continue with a 1:00 start Sunday at Philadelphia. Both are coming off NCAA tournament seasons a year ago with HFU finishing 21-10 and the Rams 22-8. Links to watch both are posted at www.bentleyfalcons.com.
The six-foot Gemma is coming off a dominating junior season, one in which she became the first Stevens-coached Bentley player to average a double-double. Her 19.5 scoring average led the NE-10 and broke the Falcon school record, and her 12 double-doubles included four with at least 30 points.
Sophomore guard Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS) was the other Bentley player to start all 27 games and she produced 11.2 points a game, best among NE-10 rookies.
The other two returnees who started at least half the games are senior guard Jane White (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan HS) and sophomore guard Trevena Bennett (Union, N.J./Gill St. Bernard's HS). White averaged 3.6 points and Bennett netted 6.1 a game.
The return of sophomore point guard Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School) from a knee injury that ended her rookie season before Christmas should bolster the Falcon offense. Bentley was 5-5 with her in uniform and 6-11 after she was sidelined.
New to the roster this season are six-foot-one Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) and guards Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England) and Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./ South Windsor HS). All project to be a part of Stevens' rotation this season.
Holy Family lost two starters but returns its three double-figure scorers, including senior guard Erin Fenningham, the team's leading scorer at 11.4. Also back from last year's regional semifinalist team are 6-2 Kasey Woetzel (11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and junior guard Jill Conroy (10.6, 104 assists).
Philadelphia, which will play Queens before taking on the Falcons, lost three of last year's top six, a trio who accounted for about 55 percent of the Rams' scoring. Senior guard Bria Young is the top returning scorer, having put up 11 a game last year. Six-foot senior Tori Arnao was also a factor, averaging nearly a double-double (8.7 points, 9.9 rebounds).
There have been many changes in the rules this season, the most noticeable being the switch from halves to four 10-minute quarters. Gone are all one-and-ones with teams shooting two free throws beginning with the fifth foul of each quarter. In games without media timeouts, each team will be allowed three 30-second timeouts, one of which must be used in the first half, and two full. And in the final 59.9 seconds of the fourth quarter, teams will be able to advance the ball after an offensive timeout, similar to what is done in the NBA.
The trip to the City of Brotherly Love will begin a three-game road trip to the Falcons, one that also includes a visit to Merrimack College Wednesday for the Northeast-10 opener. The first home game is Saturday, Nov. 21 against Franklin Pierce.