WALTHAM, Mass. – A season that holds great promise and expectations will get underway this weekend when the Bentley University women's basketball team opens with the Northeast-10/CACC Challenge at Holy Family University in Philadelphia.
Coach Barbara Stevens' Falcons will face the host team on Friday and will take on Wilmington University (Del.) on Saturday with both tipping off at 5 pm.
Coming off a 26-6 season that ended with a first-round NCAA regional loss and despite the graduation of all-time scoring leader Jen Gemma, Bentley is a consensus preseason top 10 and was also tabbed as the favorite in the Northeast-10 Conference's Northeast Division. The Falcons received 12 first place votes in the preseason voting that was announced today, with the other three going to Stonehill.
In previously announced national rankings, Bentley was forecast fourth in Division II by Women's Division II Bulletin, sixth by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and seventh in the D2SIDA media poll.
Depth and experience project to be strengths for Stevens' 31st Bentley team. The roster includes four seniors and three juniors, all of whom have seen significant action during their careers.
Senior guards Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS) and Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School) both were second-team All-Northeast-10 honorees and double-figure scorers last season. Green knocked down 79 three-pointers, third most in program history, while scoring 12.3 a game. Smith, the NE10 leader in free throw percentage, provided 11.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.5 steals a game.
The other returning starters are senior wing Trevena Bennett (Union, N.J./Gill St. Bernard's HS) and junior center Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy). Lux was second on the team in rebounds at 6.8 a game and Bennett's 30 three-pointers ranked third.
Junior guard Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS), a career 41 percent shooter from three, and senior guard Cassie Smith (Edison, N.J./Metuchen HS), whose 89 games of experience is second only to Green, played the most minutes off the bench last season. McConnell averaged 22.3 minutes and 5.5 points while Smith helped out with a 3.0 scoring norm and a .443 field goal percentage.
Six-foot junior guard Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England), a key contributor on Bentley's 2016 Final Four team, will be back on the court this season after a knee injury benched her last winter. She was named to the 2016 NE10 All-Rookie Team after averaging 10 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.7 steals.
Also back from last year's squad are a trio of sophomores. Monica Viapiano (Holden/Holy Name HS) averaged 3.6 points and 9.1 minutes while providing front court depth. Julia Ford (Charlton/Noble and Greenough) played similar minutes at guard and made 19 of 34 shots, and Gabrielle Brooks (Mount Kisco, N.Y./Choate Rosemary Hall) appeared in 13 games.
Stevens, who begins her 41st season as a head coach 17 away from 1,000 career wins, has also bolstered her roster with the addition of two Division I transfers as well as a promising freshmen class. Guard Becca Musgrove (Plainview, N.Y./St/ Anthony's HS) was a three-year starter at Brown from 2013-16, averaging 10.8 points and 2.2 steals in her final season. Sophomore guard Maddy Springfield (Jaffrey, N.H./Conant HS) comes to Bentley from Holy Cross where she saw action in 29 games last winter.
Freshmen who'll be looking to crack the rotation are center Erin Nolan (Binghamton, N.Y./ Susquehanna Valley HS), forward Marissa Fontaine (Franklin/Bishop Feehan HS), and guards Lauryn Griffin (Wilmington, Del./Alexis I Dupont HS) and Katie Meriggioli (Waunakee, Wisc./Edgewood HS).
Holy Family is coming off an 8-19 season that included a 103-66 New Year's Day loss to Bentley. The Tigers graduated their two double figure scorers with the top returning scorer junior forward Katie O'Hare (7.7). Senior guard Alexis Hofstaeder, who averaged 9.4 points in nine games, is also among the returnees.
Wilmington, coming off a 12-16 season, returns its top two scorers from last year's squad. Senior guard LaShyra Williams averaged 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds, and junior guard Macy Robinson followed at 13.6 and 5.8.
After the trip to Philly, Bentley will return to prepare for Wednesday's home and conference opener against Stonehill College.