Monday, December 9, 2002
MEDFORD – Five games into Head Coach Carla Berube's tenure, the Tufts University Women's Basketball team is playing with great spirit. As a result, the Jumbos (4-1) have won four straight after finishing the first semester of action with an exciting 61-56 victory over MIT on Saturday afternoon in Medford.
It's still very early, and the schedule is more difficult in the second semester, but a Tufts team that was looking for a boost when Berube was hired has received one. A former captain at UCONN and a member of the Husky's undefeated 1995 NCAA Championship team, Berube and assistants Naomi Martin, Jackie Desmarais and Martha Whiting have the Jumbos off to a hot start despite losing the top three scorers from last year's 9-14 team. Emily Goodman, a 1,000 point scorer, and Erin Harrington, the team's top three-point shooter last year, decided not to play in their senior seasons this year.
Instead, Tufts is relying on its depth offensively and an aggressive defense. On offense, seven players are averaging better than five points per game. Defensively, the team has pressured its opponents into an average of 30.8 turnovers per game.
Tufts lost its season opener to RPI at the MIT Classic on November 22, 61-49. Since then they have won four straight including two blowouts and two close games that they finished strong. The NESCAC schedule looms next semester, and the Jumbos were last in the conference a year ago at 1-8. That's when the team will be truly tested, but the strong start and new look has already brought excitement to the campus.
Freshman Jessica Powers (Massapequa, NY/Massapequa) has had a fantastic start to her collegiate career, averaging 13.2 points per game to lead the Jumbos. After scoring 20+ points in back to back games against Babson and Regis, she struggled shooting the ball against MIT. She was 2 for 20 during regulation, but kept taking shots and scored four points in overtime to lead Tufts. She also had seven steals in the game. Another freshman, Julia Verplank (Zeeland, MI/Zeeland), is averaging 7.6 points per game and is leading the team with 13 assists. Former Head Coach Janice Savitz and assistant Mike Murray deserve credit for adding these two talented players to the program.
Athletic junior Maritsa Christoudias (Saddle River, NJ/Ramsey) is at her best playing fast and is averaging 7.4 points and 5.0 rebounds. Sophomore Allison Love (Duxbury, MA/Duxbury) has emerged under the basket with 7.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Junior Erin Buckley (East Sandwich, MA/Sandwich) has 6.6 ppg and eight blocks in the five games. Lone senior Hillary Dunn (Medfield, MA/Medfield) has logged the most minutes in a leadership role at point guard.
The team has quickly taken to the aggressive brand of basketball that Berube and her assistants are coaching.
"I'm very pleased with where we're at and with where their focus is at," Berube said. "We want them to work hard 40 minutes a game and never let up whether they're on defense, on offense or running. They've worked hard and they've been intense."
The style has been especially successful on defense. In the MIT game, they were able to come away with a victory despite shooting just 30.5 percent (25/82). They forced the Engineers into 33 turnovers.
"We want them to play pressure defense, get into the passing lanes, not allow our opponents to set their offense or get into their fast break," Berube said. "There's a long way to go, obviously. They have to keep their focus over the next month when we're not playing, stay in shape, and pick up where we left off."
The season resumes on January 9 at Wellesley College.