By Andrew Silver

The women's basketball season tips off this weekend as the Jumbos host a field of four teams competing in the Tufts Invitational. Joining Tufts this weekend will be Bryn Mawr College representing the Centennial Conference, Endicott College representing the Commonwealth Coast Conference, and Smith College representing the New England Men's and Women's Athletic Conference. The tournament opens Friday night at 6 p.m. with the host Jumbos taking on Bryn Mawr followed by Endicott and Smith at 8 p.m.

Endicott is coming off a 13-13 campaign in its 2003-04 season, where it posted a 10-7 record in the CCC. The Gulls' season came to an end last February in a first-round playoff loss at the hands of Salve Regina. Endicott returns three of its regular starters from last winter, with junior guards Liz Yuneman and Jodi Brown along with sophomore forward Holly Beth Wojcik taking the floor again this season. Brown led the Gulls last year in scoring with 11.3 points per game, while Yuneman was the team's most proficient three-point shooter, shooting 38.5% from behind the stripe. Wojcik led the team in rebounding with 6.1 boards per game last season.

Smith comes into 2004-05 after going 10-14 last winter, including a 7-7 mark in the NEWMAC. The Pioneers return two of its regular starters from last winter, with tri-captains Diana Bull, a senior guard, and Kerry Jo Nagle, a junior forward, expected to be among the team leaders this season. Nagle figures to be a presence inside, coming off a sophomore season where she averaged 6.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, while Bull appears ready to be a mainstay in the Smith backcourt. Junior forward Shelley Harrison rounds out the team's tri-captains. With many openings due to the graduation of key contributors last spring, Smith will use this tournament to see who will step up this winter.

Bryn Mawr enters this season coming off a tough 2003-04 season that ended with some momentum in the form of two wins in its final three games. Senior Jo Ann Gage figures to be the teams biggest threat underneath the basket after averaging 8.2 rebounds along with 8.3 points as a junior. The team's other main senior leader is guard Deb Charamella, who averaged 8.5 points per game last season and will be the team's biggest threat from behind the three-point line. Bryn Mawr also returns sophomore forward Amy Johnson, who had a tremendous freshman season, where she led the team in scoring with 14.5 points per game. Johnson also led the Owls defensively with the most blocks and steals on the team and was second on the team in assists and rebounds.

Tufts is coming off its most successful season in recent memory, despite an abrupt ending to its season in the form of a first round NESCAC playoff loss to Williams. Seniors Allison Love, a forward, and guard Erin Connolly are ready to take the reigns of the Jumbos as co-captains. Love is primed for a big senior season, coming off a junior year where she led the team in scoring and rebounding with 12.8 points and 7.4 boards per game. Connolly will be a big part of Tufts' guard play this winter and returns after a junior year where she was one of the team's biggest three-point shooting threats. Junior guards Jessica Powers and Julia Verplank will also be major parts of coach Carla Berube's Jumbos, coming off sophomore seasons where they were among the team's leaders in points and assists.

Following Friday night's opening round play between Tufts and Bryn Mawr and Smith and Endicott, the losers will meet in a consolation game on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. to be immediately followed by the tournament's championship game between Friday night's winners at 3 p.m.