Monday, March 01, 2010

Colby Women's Hoops Headed to NCAA Tourney

The Colby College women’s basketball team is headed to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time and the Mules get to stay right at home for the opening two rounds.

The Mules will host the first two rounds of play this Friday and Saturday at Wadsworth Gymnasium. Colby will entertain Husson University (19-8) in one game Friday, while Emmanuel College (22-5) takes on Babson College (25-3) in the other contest. The winners will play on Saturday for the right to move on in the tourney. Times and ticket prices will be announced.

Go to the following link for a complete NCAA bracket:

Colby took an 88-58 win over Husson back on January 9 in a game at Wadsworth Gymnasium. Colby is 12-2 this season at Wadsworth Gymnasium and has a 22-5 record at home over the last two years.

“The selection committee is sending three conference champions to Waterville this weekend, so we’ll have to be ready. Ironically, I was exchanging congratulatory emails with (Husson coach) Kissy Walker this morning, never really considering that we might be playing each other in the tournament,” Colby head coach Lori Gear McBride said. “They had an undefeated run through their conference and are very talented at all positions. Having played each other earlier this year, there will be a familiarity on both sides.”

Colby (23-4 overall) tied a program record for wins in a season with the 1981-82 and 1983-84 teams after beating rival Bowdoin College in a New England Small College Athletic Conference semifinal Saturday. The Mules then lost to top-ranked Amherst College in the conference title game Sunday.

An amazing five teams – half of the league --- from the New England Small College Athletic Conference made the 64-team field. Amherst (27-0) will play Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (18-9) in an opening round game. Bowdoin College, Tufts University, and Williams College also made the tourney.

Gear McBride, in her fifth year at Colby, and her team watched the NCAA selection show in the trophy room of the Alfond Athletic Center and were able to celebrate seeing Colby in the brackets for the first time ever.

“This group of young ladies has proven that working hard and remaining committed to each other can lead to great things. As a coach, you are always a bit nervous until you see or hear your name called, but I felt we had a great chance to be a part of it and being in the room with the team was a special moment I’ll never forget,” Gear McBride said. “When you finish a season with four losses, two to the No. 1 team and two others to teams that have been ranked in the top 10 nationally, you feel pretty good about what you have accomplished, particularly in a league that sends five teams to the NCAA Tournament.”

Maine colleges Colby, Husson, Bowdoin, University of Southern Maine, and University of New England all made the field.

The arrival of senior guard/forward Alison Cappelloni, the lone four-year player for the Mules, was a key moment for Gear McBride in turning the Mules into a winner. Colby went 6-17 in Cappelloni’s first year and improved each year from 9-16 in 2007-08 to 13-12 a year ago. Cappelloni, a three-time captain, ranks sixth all-time in Colby career scoring with 1,203 points and holds the career made 3-point shooting record at 181.

Cappelloni leads the Mules in scoring at 12.4 points per game and also has nailed a single-season record 59 3-point shots. She had 19 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in the first game against Husson.

Rachael Mack, who missed the NESCAC title game because of illness, will hopefully be ready for the weekend. She is second on the Mules in scoring (10.3), second in rebounding (6.7), first in blocked shots (36), first in field goal percentage (.507), and second in free throw percentage (.861).

Samantha Allen (8.9 points per game), Aarika Ritchie (8.7 ppg), Julianne Kowalski (8.7 ppg), and Diana Manduca (8.2 ppg) are all averaging more than eight points per game. Kowalski leads the Mules in rebounding (7.7), Ritchie is first on the team in total assists (102), Manduca ranks first in steals (39), and Allen has nailed 49 3-point field goals. Jil Vaughan, who started in place of Mack on Sunday, averages 7.6 points and 5.6 rebounds.

That type of balance has helped the Mules become one of the elite teams in the country.

“Getting into the NCAA Tournament is a major accomplishment for any program, but as a first-time invitee, it is particularly special and meaningful for us,” Gear McBride said. “To be among the top 64 teams from a pool of 450 or so Division III programs is a credit to the players, assistant coach Christine Clancy, and the parents who all believed and supported us this season. When you are having as much fun as we are, you never want your season to end and this also helps take some of the sting off yesterday’s tough loss.”




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