Tuesday, December 7, 2004
Written by Andrew Silver


MEDFORD – Out of the gate with a 6-0 start, the Tufts University women's basketball team is off to its best start since the 1991-92 season, where the team won seven straight before picking up a loss. After winning their first two games of the season to capture the Tufts Invitational title at home, the Jumbos have put together four consecutive road wins to land themselves unbeaten through their first six contests.

The team's most recent victory was its closest game thus far, as they went on the road Monday night and downed Wheaton (1-6) by a score of 67-60.  Tufts was led, as it has been all season, by junior guard Jessica Powers (Massapequa, NY/Massapequa), whose 25 points in the win was her career high.

Powers is averaging 16.5 points per game to lead the Jumbos in that category, with sophomore Valeria Krah (Mountain Lakes, NJ/Mountain Lakes) right behind also averaging doubles figures at 14.3 points per game. Krah has averaged 18.7 points per game in the team's last three games, including a team-leading and career-high 19 in the team's November 30 win at Babson (70-55).

Krah has also been a force defensively, averaging three steals per game, with Powers and junior guard Julia Verplank (Zeeland, MI/Zeeland) each averaging better than two thefts per game. Verplank, the team's leading distributor with 3.5 assists per game, is also pacing the Jumbos on the boards with six rebounds per game and is fourth on the team in scoring with 8.8 points per game. Senior co-captain Allison Love (Duxbury, MA/Duxbury), who also averages two steals per game, is second on the team on the boards with 5.5 rebounds per game and scores 9.8 points per game, third best for Tufts.

The Jumbos has recieved an added boost from their newcomers this season. Sophomore transfer Laura Jasinski (Leverett, MA/Amherst), who played at Wellesley last year, averages 5.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest, including a team-leading 12 points in the team's 82-25 rout of Johnson & Wales on November 23, where she also grabbed five rebounds. Freshman forward/center Khalilah Ummah (Litchfield, ME/Waynflete School) also scored 12 that night and has been a welcome addition this winter. First-years Ali Landes (Pacific Palisades, CA/Windward School), Jenna Gomez (Norfolk, MA/Noble & Greenough), and Julie Mulinare (Atlanta, GA/Paideia) have all also seen action this season.

Now in her third season, Tufts coach Carla Berube has a 41-13 career record with the Jumbos through this season. In her first two seasons, the team's season ended with NESCAC Quarterfinal losses. Last year, it was an upset that ousted the Jumbos, as Williams downed Tufts 73-52 at Counsens Gymnasium just one week after Tufts visited Williamstown, MA, and won 59-37. While the team's unblemished record is a strong start, Berube and the Jumbos certainly are focused on a strong regular season followed by post-season success.

Thus far this season, Tufts is outscoring opponents by a score of 77.5-47.0 this season, a margin of 30.5 points per game. The 1991-92 team had two work considerably harder, outscoring opponents by less than 20 points per game (78.3-59.4), and the team's wins including tight contests against NESCAC opponents Colby and Bowdoin, and Brandeis. The 1991-92 Jumbos, after winning its first seven, finished the year only 15-6 when its season ended with an abrupt 77-44 loss to Babson in the ECAC Quarterfinals. The women's basketball team's best start in history came the season before, when the 1990-91 Jumbos started 8-0 on its way to a 17-7 season that also ended with an ECAC Quarterfinal loss.

If the Jumbos can win Thursday night at Suffolk, the team will match the 1991-92 mark and will be guaranteed to be undefeated heading into January. To match the 1990-91 start, the Jumbos will have to go through Southern Maine, currently ranked No. 3 in the nation.

Once it starts NESCAC competition, Tufts will visit Bowdoin, last year's national runner-up, on January 15. The Polar Bears are currently ranked No. 4 in the nation.