WILLIAMSTOWN, MA - Pat Manning is excited for the beginning of her 29th season at the helm of the Williams women's basketball program, having led the Ephs to nine NCAA Tournaments and a third-place finish in 2013. Manning is the all-time leader in wins as a basketball coach at Williams, men or women, with 490 wins and a winning percentage of .687.
Manning has 12 of 14 players from last season back this winter. However, last year's graduating players, Amanni Fernandez and Kristin Fechtelkotter, were the team's top two scorers in the previous winter.
The Ephs started strong last year with four straight wins, but ended up 12-13 overall and 4-6 in the conference. However, Manning is optimistic as the now-seasoned players — she had 5 first-years see action last season — will be counted on to up their production level this winter.
"It's tough to play in our conference because everybody brings it every game," said Manning. "Those 10 games are incredibly meaningful, so we try to play the toughest non-league schedule we can, so when it comes time for conference play, we're ready."
Leading the way for the Ephs this year will be co-captains Lexi Jones '19 and Lauren Vostal '19. Vostal, a guard, started and played in all of last season's 25 games, racking up 114 rebounds and 122 points over the season.
"Lauren and Lexi did a great job of getting people fired up and ready for the season," Manning said. "Their leadership on and off the court is evident every day in practice."
The top returning scorer is Emily Chang, a junior who tallied 154 points (6.2 ppg) over the course of last season. Right behind her are sophomores Maggie Meehan and Mikaela Topper, who scored 152 points and 129 points respectively. Meehan also had the most assists last winter of any returning player at 35.
Manning has also been impressed with the work that the two first years have put in both in the weight room and on the court. The two newcomers are forward Maddy Mandyck (West Hartford, CT) and guard Mia Holtze (London, UK).
"Since we have such a short preseason, you have to be ready to go," said Manning, "And I do feel like our 14 players are definitely ready."
This winter, the Ephs will be traveling to California to challenge Whitman and UC Santa Cruz during winter break. In addition, Williams will play many of the Northeast powerhouses such as Amherst, Bowdoin and Tufts in the NESCAC. This season, only four of the conference games will be held at home, with the team hitting the road for the remaining six.
"It makes you work harder when you play in a conference like this," Manning commented on the schedule. "You can't take anything for granted."
The Ephs will open its season with a game against Skidmore on Friday, November 16th at 6:00 in Chandler Gym in The Morin Memorial Classic, which will also feature Salem State and SUNY-Oneonta.