|Chelsea Houlihan is one of several Corsairs who've stepped up in the absence of Megan Ronaghan.
Mass-Dartmouth athletics photo
Matt Ducharme would rather have his team be the ‘hunters,’ not the ‘hunted.'
When the Little East Conference (LEC) released its women's basketball preseason poll, Mass-Dartmouth was picked to capture its conference after collecting a quartet of first place votes. The Corsairs, who had never been picked to win their league, edged Western Connecticut by one point (49-48) to secure the top spot.
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“I think it is great for the validation of the players and their hard work,” said Ducharme, who is in his third season as the Corsairs’ head coach.
“It is a different spot for us to be the targeted ones – the hunted instead of the hunters, but so far the players have really grasped onto it, showed some mental toughness that we didn’t posses in the past and we’ll see how it plays out.”
So far, the Corsairs have enjoyed an impressive start, winning six-straight contests, including a pair of games against two quality Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) foes, Bridgewater State and last year's MASCAC champs Westfield State.
Mass-Dartmouth’s most recent victory – an 80-63 win over the Owls – helped the squad match their start from last season (6-0), as well as become the fourth team in program history to begin a campaign with six consecutive victories.
Yet, before the Corsairs sailed out to a six-game winning streak, the squad suffered a disappointing setback, losing last year’s LEC Player of the Year and first team All-Region honoree Megan Ronaghan. Ronaghan addressed the team prior to the season with inspirational words that resonated with junior Chelsea Houlihan.
We knew we had a new goal and we had someone to do it for,” said Houlihan, who is averaging 8.3 points per game this season.
The ‘new goal’ was for every player to step-up and elevate their game, both in practices and contests. However, the goal – or the plan – was tested last week against Bridgewater State, a contest Mass-Dartmouth managed to win by a score of 65-56.
“We knew we had more potential and could play harder,” Senior Rachel McCarron said when asked about her team’s win over Bridgewater State.
“I think our next practice was a big leap for us because we knew we had more in us … I think if we continue to practice like we did (last Wednesday) then we will be competitive in games going forward."
Fortunately, an intense practice, along with a message about accountability resulted in perhaps the Corsairs’ best outing of the season, a 17-point victory over Westfield State also picked to capture its respective conference.
The Corsairs have sat idle since their last win, but don’t think they haven’t been practicing in the gym, lifting weights or watching film on their next two opponents: Keene State and Plymouth State.
The ‘down time’ – not a vacation, to be exact, according to Ducharme – is the perfect break to recoup, both mentally and physically before competing in three games in five days.
“We have a little (extra) time to prepare and recoup, both mentally and physically for what is coming up with league play,” said Ducharme, who described his team’s next two games as ‘huge.’
“The coaching staff and I will be able to study a little more film, we will have some film sessions with the players and I think it will open up the mental part of the game with having this time (off).”
As for McCarron, she agreed with her coach, admitting a few days away from games could certainly benefit the squad, but she also believes the team must continue to practice the way they did prior to the Westfield State contest.
“If we keep (that practice style) up, then things we’ll be looking good for us,” said McCarron.
Things are certainly looking good for the Corsairs so far, but they know if they want to accomplish their goal of winning the league crown that they’ll need to practice harder, execute each play correctly and have everyone step-up when needed.
News and notes
A layup by Tyheem Simon late in the second half helped the Thomas fend off Castleton to improve to 5-2 overall and 3-0 in NAC play. The Terriers enter the week with a road contest at Plymouth State on Thursday, December 8 before enjoying a few weeks off for the holidays … Make it four-straight for the Lesley men’s basketball team as they defeated defending NECC champions Southern Vermont this past weekend by a score of 65-62. The Lynx are off to their best start in program history as they improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in league play… Speaking of winning streaks, the Babson men’s basketball team has enjoyed its best start in program history, winning nine consecutive contests, including back-to-back New England Big 4 Challenge games this past weekend over Tufts and Salem State. On Saturday, Joey Flannery poured in a season-high 42 points in his team’s 91-78 victory over the Jumbos, which helped the Beavers capture its third New England Big 4 Challenge championship in the last four seasons…Also stretching its winning streak this past weekend was the WPI women’s basketball team, which has now won seven-straight. The Engineers defeated Wheaton, 58-37, thanks to an impressive performance by Ama Biney, who paced the Engineers with 18 points … The Becker women’s basketball team has enjoyed its best start in NECC play, winning a trio of league games. The Hawks recently defeated Newbury, 59-50 to improve to 3-0 in confernece…Finally, congratulations are in order for both Chris Bartley (WPI men’s basketball) and Brian Baptiste (UMass Dartmouth) – both coaches clinched impressive milestone victories last week. Baptiste became just the sixth active Division III men’s basketball coach to win 600 games – his Corsairs delivered the milestone victory with a 77-71 win over Bridgewater State, while Bartley collected< win No. 300 on the sidelines when the Engineers beat Framingham State last Thursday.