Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Written by Julie Fox


MEDFORD -- Coming off a disappointing 9-14 campaign last season, the 2002-2003 Tufts University Women's Basketball team started fresh with first-year Head Coach Carla Berube and made the transition to a new coaching style seem easy.  The team finished their season with a 17-7 record, the most wins by the team since the 1990-91 season.

Tufts finished last in NESCAC standings at 1-8 in 2001-02 and didn't qualify for the conference playoffs. This winter the Jumbos placed sixth at 4-5 and returned to the conference tournament. They lost on the road to Bates, 80-59, on February 22 in the first round of the tournament.

Along with the tournament berth, the Jumbos reached a few other notable milestones this season.  Starting with a 67-20 win over Emerson College on November 23 and ending with a 79-76 overtime loss to NESCAC rival and nationally ranked Wesleyan University on January 18, the Jumbos won nine straight games, a school-record.  The previous best winning streak was eight games during the 1990-91 season.

Tufts also ended long losing streaks against NESCAC rivals Bates College and Middlebury College this season.  With a 66-59 win over Bates at home on January 25 the team ended a seven-year losing streak, going without a victory since the 1994-1995 season.  The team lost to Bates last season by 40 points.  Tufts had not beaten Middlebury since the teams starting playing annually, starting in the 1992-93 season.  This season the Jumbos won 69-58 on February 14 after losing by 14 points to the Panthers last season.

The Jumbos made their first appearance in the New England poll in a long while with a #8 ranking the week of January 24.  The team was extremely tough at home with a 10-2 record at Cousens Gym, including a 7-0 record against non-conference teams.

"The team far exceeded the expectations anyone had for them," Berube said. "They worked so hard in practices and games. They developed chemistry. They believed in each other. It was a great first season for us."

One of the biggest differences in this year's squad was their much-improved defense.  After allowing last year's opponents 65.9 points per game the Jumbos were nearly 10 points less per game better, allowing only 56.4 points per game this year.  Their scoring margin shot up from -3.0 last season to +10.0 this season.  The Jumbos forced their opponents to turn the ball over 22.8 times, and held their opponents to a .365 field-goal percentage. The team's 11.75 steals were game was third in the conference.

The Jumbos finished fourth in NESCAC in scoring at 66.5 points per game. Leading the way for the Jumbos on the offensive end, and also one of the team's best defenders, was freshman guard Jessica Powers (Massapequa, NY/Massapequa).  Selected as the NESCAC Rookie of the Year, Powers averaged 13.5 points per game, the most points for a freshman since Jodi Beach averaged 13.6 points during the 1991-92 season.  Powers also averaged 2.3 assists per game, second on the team, and 2.3 steals per game, again second on the team.  Powers ranked ninth in the NESCAC in scoring and seventh in steals.

Second-leading scorer Allison Love (Duxbury, MA/Duxbury) averaged 10.5 points per game for the Jumbos and led the team in rebounds with 5.8 per game.  Love had a team season-high 31 points in a 73-65 win over Clark University on January 28.  She led the team this season with a .546 field-goal percentage (107/196) that ranked third in the NESCAC. Junior forward Maritsa Christoudias (Saddle River, NJ/Ramsey) helped lead the defensive charge, averaging 2.5 steals per game, good for fifth in the NESCAC and first on the team.  Christoudias also averaged 7.0 points per game and 1.8 assists per game.

Junior center Erin Buckley (East Sandwich, MA/Sandwich) averaged a team-leading 1.3 blocks per game, good for third in the NESCAC.  She was second on the team in rebounds, averaging 5.7 per game, and third on the team in points per game with 7.5. Senior captain and point guard Hillary Dunn (Medfield, MA/Medfield) led the team on and off the court, finishing with 3.3 assists per game, good for sixth in the NESCAC.  The senior also moved to third place on the Tufts all-time career assists list with 306.  She also led the team from the free-throw line with a .763 percentage (29/38).

Joining Powers, Christoudias, and Dunn in the starting lineup were junior Kate Gluckman (Morrisville, VT/Peoples Academy) and sophomore Krissy Nierenberg (Lebanon, NH/Lebanon).  Gluckman averaged 5.6 points per game and was second on the team with a .759 free-throw percentage (41/54).  Nierenberg averaged 3.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.

Key guards off the bench for the Jumbos included freshman Julia Verplank (Zeeland, MI/Zeeland) and sophomore Erin Connolly (Syosset, NY/Syosset).  Verplank was fourth on the team with 7.0 points per game and third on the team with 2.0 steals per game, which put her tied for tenth in the NESCAC.  Connolly led the team with a .308 three-point percentage (28/91), which was ninth in the NESCAC.

Also coming off the bench for the Jumbos were freshman forward Katherine Miller (Bangor, ME/Bangor) and sophomore forward Devin Rhoades (Oceanside, NY/Oceanside).  Miller was injured near the end of the season and saw action in only ten games, averaging 2.2 points in 7.6 minutes of action.  Rhoades scored 41 points in 22 games.

The Jumbos can't help but look forward to next season.  The team loses only one senior in Dunn and will welcome Coach Berube's first recruiting class.  Until then, the first-round exit from the NESCAC Tournament should give them both something to build from and something to avenge for next season.