Wheelock upset bid falls short

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Wheelock has gone from 6-20 to 18-7 in the past two seasons, but fell in the conference quarterfinals.
Wheelock athletics photo 

Clinging to a one-point lead late in the final session of an early December contest against Regis, the Wheelock women’s basketball team was seven seconds away from upsetting the eventual New England Collegiate Conference regular season and conference champions.

Junior Jaime Grzych converted one of two free throw attempts to push Wheelock ahead, 54-53, but following a timeout, Regis’ Amanda Hawkesworth was sent to the line where she sank a pair of free throws to provide the visting Pride with a one-point victory. 

The loss, which sent the Wildcats to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in league play, did not sit well with the squad. 

“The loss to Regis was a catalyst for the remainder of our season,” second year head coach Missy Traversi said. “We truly became a team that night and came together on the court in a very positive way because the team had found another gear and it became their standard for excellence.”  

Wheelock would rebound by posting an additional 16 wins, while placing second in the conference for the first-time in program history. The Wildcats also strung together a nine-game winning streak – another first for the program – before its bid toward a conference tournament crown concluded in the opening round of the NECC tournament last Tuesday with a 75-67 setback to Newbury.

“We recognized how difficult the loss was for the team,” said Traversi. “We agreed (as a staff) to make the postgame meeting about the success we experienced as a unit over the course of the season. We accomplished a lot of ‘first’ this season, so it was certainly tough to see (our campaign) come to an end.

What made this particular season so successful for this program was consistent repetition of scouts for every game, while remaining focused on preseason objectives.

As a team – and a coaching staff – the focus was also on winning 15 games and translating the on-court effort to the classroom to position the unit for a second consecutive Wheelock academic cup. Traversi had the team take part in various team-bonding activities too, including multiple community service projects, while working with a pair of Greater Boston youth basketball programs.  

“There was no secret (to our program’s success this season) because it just came down to hard work and ultimately giving more to get more,” said Traversi. “There was a shared belief between the players and coaches, and each of us had an important role to execute within the team concept.

“The players worked not only on the court individually and together as a team to develop their basketball skills, but also spent time together learning the game of basketball through film and scouting teams. As a group, they also spent time in the community giving back.” 

The foundation Traversi has established over the past two seasons has the Wildcats headed in the right direction. The goal – to win a NECC title and advance to the Division III NCAA Tournament – is within reach, but Traversi knows her squad needs to continue to work hard, especially during the offseason.   

“These young women have created a winning culture,” said Traversi. “It’s always beneficial to have people coming back who know what the standards are and understand the process to get there. Expectations will be high next season. How well we do will come down to ownership from the players in the offseason.”  

WPI women’s make history

For the first time in school history, the WPI women’s basketball team will compete for a NCAA Division III crown, beginning Friday against Scranton.

Under the guidance of Cherise Galasso, the Engineers earned a pair of victories this past weekend, including a dramatic 60-59 win against Babson in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference finals.

“It’s amazing and incredible. I’m so proud of this group, and they deserve it,” Galasso told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette following her team’s 24th victory of the season.

Babson snapped WPI’s 18-game winning streak last month, which provided the Beavers with a lead in the conference – and eventually the top seed heading into the tournament. The Beavers defeated Springfield prior to their one-point setback, but kept pace with the Engineers in all four quarters.

Stasha Greenalch helped WPI earn the lead for good with a layup with eight seconds remaining. The Engineers defense did its job following the game’s final bucket, denying a last-second jumper by the Beavers to clinch the victory.  

Northeast clippings

For the second consecutive season, Endicott claimed the Commonwealth Coast Conference crown by defeating Roger Williams last Saturday in the conference tournament final. The Gulls claimed a 40-30 halftime lead before going onto beat the Hawks for the third time this season. Kamahl Walker paced the Gulls with 18 points; Daquan Sampson netted 14 points, while Max Motroni poured in 13 points … Middlebury scored a pair of victories this weekend, including a dramatic 81-79 win over Amherst in the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship on Sunday. Middlebury has now won three conference championships. As noted in the release, the game featured 23 lead changes and 10 ties, but it was a pair of late free throws from Matt St. Amour that clinched the victory for the Panthers … The University of New England women’s basketball team will embark on the program’s seventh NCAA Tournament trip this Friday when they host Moravian. UNE will also host Tufts and Regis – another first round game – with both winners advancing to Saturday’s second round contest. The Nor’easters earned their fourth trip to the ‘big dance’ following a 56-41 win over Western New England in the Commonwealth Coast Conference championship last Saturday.

Matt Noonan

Matt Noonan is the head editor and founder of NoontimeSports.com, a New England Division III college sports blog that covers basketball, football and lacrosse. Noonan's work has been featured on ESPN.com, BostonLax.net, VentureFizz.com and Patch.com, and has appeared in the Boston Globe, along with other digital and print outlets. No stranger to Division III, Noonan spent time as an Athletics Communications Assistant and Sports Information Assistant at MIT, Wentworth Institute of Technology and Wheaton College, and was recently an Associate Producer at Lax Sports Network where he oversaw a trio of weekly shows, while assisting producers, on-air talent, production assistants and directors with daily programming. Noonan graduated from Wheaton College in May 2010 -- Go Lyons! -- and currently resides in Somerville, Massachusetts.