By: Andrew Mason
BOSTON — Exactly 250 days after a Patriot League Quarterfinal loss to American, Boston University Women’s Basketball is back on the court Friday night. The Terriers kick of their 2017-18 campaign against Northeastern University for the fifth time in a row, an opening-day tradition that has gone the way of the Huskies each year.
The Terriers saw their first above .500 conference record under 4th year head coach Katy Steding a season ago, finishing 11-7 in Patriot League action and 13-17 overall. Steding has improved her team’s record each season she has been with the program.
With four straight losses at the hands of the Huskies, Friday will be no cake walk for BU. The Terriers have lost a tremendous leadership role in point guard Sarah Hope due to graduation. Hope, who averaged 11.7 points per game last year and became the BU Women’s Basketball all-time 3-point scorer a year ago, generated a great deal of the team’s offense in her time at BU.
That being said, the Terriers have the weapons to fill in the gaps.
BU returns last year’s leading scorer, center Sophie Beaudry (12.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg), as well as senior Corinne Williams (8.1 ppg, 3 apg). Junior guards Payton Hauck and Naiyah Thompson finished last season strong and are expected to be juggernauts on both ends of the court in 2017-18.
The most notable addition comes from freshman point guard Katie Nelson. The Falmouth, Mass. native, who averaged 17.6 points, 4.6 boards and 3.4 steals per game at Bishop Feehan High School, has aided in filling the loss of Hope.
“It can be a little intimidating at first, but the team has been so supportive and accepting of all the freshman,” Nelson said. “It made me comfortable taking on that leadership role.”
Aside from Nelson, the freshmen class includes six-foot-two forward Mackenzie Miers and guard Tenisha Pressley. From what can be seen in practice, both have made good transitions into the quickness of collegiate play. However, nerves are just about inevitable for freshman in their first game.
“I was in their shoes just two years ago and I remember the nerves, excitement and butterflies I had before the game,” said junior point guard Lauren Spearman. “At the end of the day it’s still basketball, the same game they’ve been playing for years.”
The team has had two successful scrimmages so far this season, rolling easily past both Southern New Hampshire and Emerson College. But Northeastern is a whole different animal.
Led by Head Coach Kelly Cole – who played basketball against Steding in high school – the Huskies have hammering offensive energy.
Junior Jess Genko (9.6 ppg, 4.2 apg), who led the entire nation in minutes played last season, and senior Claudia Ortiz (13 ppg, 4.6 rpg) pose a deadly backcourt unit that can score easily. The fewer looks at the rim that Genko or Ortiz have on Friday, the better of the Terriers will fare.
“Boxing out and getting rebounds, keeping them off the boards and preventing second chance scoring opportunities is definitely one of our main keys to winning [Friday’s] game,” Spearman added.
BU will need to match the intensity of Northeastern for the full 40 minutes of action. This team struggled, particularly in early October, with starting practice with the same energy needed to beat a team like Northeastern. However, the Terriers had no trouble shooting out of a cannon when it came time for their preseason scrimmages.
“I’m not at all worried about our energy [Friday],” Spearman admitted. “Everyone’s excited to get going so our energy is going to be very high.”
With the intensity of Opening Night, nerves can often be too high, especially with the team’s underclassmen. But Nelson, who is expected to make her first collegiate start on Friday, seems calm and ready for action.
“[We have to] relax and not think too much,” said Nelson. “We have been practicing hard for a couple of months now and we are more than prepared for the game.”
Boston University Women’s Basketball hosts Northeastern University in the first game of the season on Friday, Nov. 10th inside Case Gym. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., with BU Men’s Basketball also taking the court against Northeastern afterwards at 7:30 p.m.