Basketball teams head into preseason with hopes of NEWMAC glory

The Wheaton men’s and women’s basketball teams recently kicked off their preseason affairs to prepare for the 2014-15 season with two separate mentalities but similar objectives. The women’s side plays to “get better everyday” and grow from the present, one of the team philosophies set by head coach Melissa L. Hodgdon. The men’s program looks to simply “win games and grow as a team”, as expressed by senior co-captain Michael Cannon ’15.

Coach Melissa L. Hodgdon will soon begin her 12th season as head coach of the Wheaton women’s basketball program. The 2013-14 season ended with an impressive 20-8 winning record with berths in both the NEWMAC Tournament and ECAC Tournament. After graduating Sarah Fitzgerald ’14 and Lauren McClelland ’14, the program has brought in six first-year members to strengthen the team with young talent. The team also has a set of returners including four seniors that immensely contributed last season.

Senior co-captain Laura Pierce ’15 has been top 10 in assists in all of NCAA Division III women’s basketball and plans to win a NEWMAC Championship in what could be her final season as a Lyon. “We finished with a solid record last year, but we can definitely improve,” said Pierce. “Looking back on last year, we didn’t do as well as we would’ve liked the second half of the season, so we can definitely build off of that.”

Another senior co-captain, Kenzie Kuhn ’15, has played and started the majority of the games since her freshman year. She’s received several NEWMAC Academic All-Conference honors maintaining a 4.0 GPA while also dominating the court as a guard. Kuhn expressed how impressed she is with the new additions to the team and like Pierce, aspires to win a NEWMAC title. “I am really pleased with pre-season this year,” said Kuhn. “Every player has brought high energy and intensity to each practice and the six freshmen are competitive and catch on quickly which is really great.”

Another senior co-captain who has started the majority of her games as a Lyon, Abbie Brickley ’15, won her 1,000th career point in the final game of last season against Framingham State University. Brickley feels strongly about the team’s hopeful ambition to become NEWMAC Champions in the upcoming season and knows just the way the team will strive to do so. “Everyday in our pre-practice huddle, coach asks us ‘what’s your purpose?’ and the team responds ‘get better’,” said Brickley. “It may sound like such a simple goal for the season, but if we get a little bit better every day then winning a NEWMAC Championship becomes that much easier.”

Last season, the team fell short in the NEWMAC Tournament losing to Springfield College in the semi-finals. The team was seeded 2nd going into the tournament. This left the Lyons even hungrier for a conference title. Their season begins on Nov. 15 against Plymouth State at 6 pm in Emerson Gymnasium as they host the Cheryl Warren-Powers ‘95 Memorial Tournament. 

The men’s program finished last season with a 9-14 record and slipped away from qualifying for the NEWMAC playoffs. In their final game of the season against Emerson College the team sent off senior point-guard William Bayliss ’14 as he moved to third all-time on the career assists list.

“We’re looking to build off of last year,” said senior co-captain Edward Capstick ’15. “Everyone’s a year older and has been working hard in the off season, so we are looking to improve our record in and out of conference. We’ve made good strides over the past few years, and hopefully this year we can put it all together and make the jump.”

The team has certainly put the work in during the off-season and it was displayed during their fitness tests when every member of the team improved on his mile time from the previous season. They also made sure to stay active in the weight room: just another result that showed when they did their annual lifting tests. 

Senior co-captain Michael Cannon ’15 also expressed how well he believes the team has been doing in preseason. “Preseason is usually a time when teams get in shape and start with the basics but due to our team being in great shape already, we were able to skip that step and get right down to business,” said Cannon. “There’s not been one ‘bad’ practice yet and we are showing a lot of potential, both great things to have going into our first scrimmage in November and into the regular season.” 

Cannon is a dynamic forward whose minutes and points per game have increased every year since he first arrived at Wheaton. Capstick’s stats have also progressed over the years as a guard and the two look to captain the team into a NEWMAC tournament berth with the help of other influential players like Billy Battaglia ’16 who over a long stretch of last season averaged 15.6 points a game. 

The team has also improved on their shooting abilities, which should ultimately help them score more this season. “Last year we struggled in this area so it’s great to see how much of a difference there is in our shooting this year,” said Cannon. “Staying confident shooting the ball will be huge for us this season,” said Capstick. 

The Lyons aim to make the NEWMAC tournament for the first time since the 2011-12 season. “We have a good group of guys who are all about putting the team first,” said Capstick. 

The men’s basketball team will travel to Keene State College for the annual KSC Tip-Off Tournament where they will meet up with Western New England University to start off their season on Nov. 15. Their first home game will be against Roger Williams University on Nov. 22 in Emerson Gymnasium at 7 pm.