Tuesday, March 23, 2004
By Elliott Wiley, Jr.


The 2003-04 Tufts University women's basketball team was the university's second winning-est women's basketball team at 18-6, behind only the 1986-87 team that went 20-3. Despite losing to Williams in the first round of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament, 73-52, on February 21, the Jumbos and head coach Carla Berube have a lot to be proud of this season.

For the second season in a row, sophomore guard Jessica Powers (Massapequa, NY/Massapequa) and junior forward Allison Love (Duxbury, MA/Duxbury) were the team's top statistical leaders. Both players averaged 12.8 points per game with Love scoring two more points than Powers to hold a slight edge. Love led the team in rebounds with 7.4 per game and Powers led in assists with 3.6 per game. They were both named to the All-NESCAC second team.

With Powers and Love as the Jumbos' core offense, sophomore guard Julia Verplank (Zeeland MI/Zeeland) (9 ppg, 3.2 assists and 2.7 steals per game), senior tri-captain Maritsa Christoudias (Saddle River, NJ/Ramsey) (6.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.3 spg), senior tri-captain center Erin Buckley (East Sandwich, MA/Sandwich) (6.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 2.3 blocks per game) and senior tri-captain forward Kate Gluckman (Morrisville, VT/Peoples Academy) (5.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg) also made huge veteran contributions.

Buckley set both the single-season and career records for blocked shots at Tufts. The 6'1" center swatted away 55 shots this season, a 2.3 average that was second in NESCAC. She broke the career blocks record originally set by Jen Foxson on December 5 at Southern Maine. Buckley finished her career with 139. Verplank's 2.65 steals per game was second in NESCAC, while Powers placed fifth with her 3.58 assists.

The veteran poise in crunch time was balanced by exciting young play by the team's freshmen guards Jenny Muller (Andover, MA/Andover), Taryn Miller-Stevens (Avon, CT/Avon) and Valerie Krah (Mountain Lakes, NJ/Mountain Lakes). Muller and Krah were the team's most accurate three-point shooters, showing signs for scoring for the future. The team set the program's record for most three-pointers made in a season (123). Miller-Stevens provided good relief for Verplank off the bench at point guard.

Junior Erin Connolly (Syosset, NY/Syosset), sophomore forward Katherine Miller (Bangor, ME/Bangor), freshman forward Danielle Vardaro (North Reading, MA/Phillips Andover) and freshman guard Marilyn Duffy-Cabana (Amesbury, MA/Amesbury) also made good contributions to the team.

The players give much credit to Berube. In her second year at Tufts, the former UConn stand-out has guided Tufts to a 35-13 record. Berube instills team cohesiveness that shows on the court through the Jumbos' dominant defense. Tufts' women were everywhere, creating 12.3 steals and 22 turnovers per game. Opponents only caused the Jumbos to turnover the ball 18.5 times a game and created steals 8.6 times a game.

On the offensive end, Tufts scored almost 70 points a game and shot 41.1 percent from the field for the year. Both marks ranked second in the conference. It wasn't as if the Jumbos played against cupcakes either, Tufts was able to perform to a high level against top competition. The NESCAC is one of the premier Division-III conferences in the country, yet Tufts was able to come out with a 7-2 regular season league record.

Possibly the biggest win of the season, which put Tufts in position to create a three-way tie for second place in the conference, was its 47-46 win at previously unbeaten Wesleyan on January 17. Love was the hero of the contest with a game-high 12 points including the game-winning basket at the buzzer. At the time Wesleyan was ranked 18th in the country. The Cardinals finished 7-2 in the league with their only losses coming to undefeated Bowdoin and Tufts.

For her efforts in that game, in the previous day's game at Connecticut College, and for a season-high of 25 points in a 91-66 win against Emmanuel earlier in the week, Love earned her second NESCAC Player of the Week honors. She was also named co-player of the week on December 8.  

Other nationally spotlighted teams on Tufts' schedule included Bowdoin, Southern Maine, Bates, and Brandeis. Although the Jumbos went 0-4 against those opponents, the Jumbos proved they are confident enough to take on any team.

In fact, the 58-45 loss against Bowdoin and the playoff game against Williams were the Jumbos only two losses at home all season. Cousens Gymnasium almost turned into a graveyard for opposing teams as the Jumbos finished the year 9-2 at home.

After falling to top-ranked Bowdoin on February 6, Tufts ran off five straight victories before losing to Williams to end its season. Despite its disappointing ending, 2003-04 was another big step in the right direction for the oncoming Tufts women's basketball team.