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Women’s Basketball Profile: What to expect from the Garnet

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The Garnet is destined for a strong 2016-17 season. A revamped roster along with a strong returning class is expected to bring new depth and talent to this year’s team. The Garnet will return eight players from the 2015-16 season, having lost only two to graduation. One returner is Maggie O’Neil ’17, starting guard/forward, and senior captain. As a junior, she made 24 starts, averaging 7.4 points, and 6.4 rebounds per game. She also broke the single-season blocks record, totaling 77 blocks in the 2015-16 season.

     O’Neil, a native of Woodbury, Connecticut, and a Political Science and Psychology major, reflected on the 2015-16 season and her hopes for the upcoming season.

     “Last season was a little disappointing: we were often down in numbers and lost a lot of close games. Our record didn’t exactly reflect our overall experience in the season. I’m really optimistic about this year because we have a lot of new and committed freshman, and I hope this year is a turning point for the program.”

     Due to injuries and extenuating circumstances, the Garnet often did not have enough for five-on-five in practice last season.

     “One thing that I’ve noticed in this year’s preseason are the improved numbers for practices,” O’Neil said. “The gym is a lot louder with new voices, and I hope that will reflect on our team positively in the months to come.”

     The Garnet welcomes six freshmen to the roster, the largest incoming class in recent years. The class hails from states including California, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, and South Carolina. Such geographic diversity demonstrates not only the stellar job that the Garnet coaching staff has done on the recruiting trail, but also the attractiveness of the program to players from all across the country.

     Christina “Tina” Holmgren ’20, from Wilton, Connecticut, is passionate about the dedication that the women’s basketball program has to both academics and athletics.

     “The team really emphasizes a balance between school and sports, from the coaching staff to the players. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to play for the Garnet,”  she said.

     Lizzie Stiles ’20, from Syosset, New York, echoed similar sentiments.

     “Coach DeVarney made a great first impression when I visited. In general, all the girls are ambitious in both academics and athletics, as I am,” she said.

     The team is working to integrate the new freshman as much as possible, and has partaken in an extensive preseason designed to bring the team closer. Lindsay O’Sullivan ’20, from Old Brookville, New York has been very impressed with the preseason process so far.

     “We did a team advance […] we came back from fall break earl, and went to a teammate’s house and the Atlantic City boardwalk, where we did a run, participated in a scavenger hunt, and really came together as a team,” she said.

     The goal of the team advance was to bring the team together, and according to some of the players, the preseason process has done exactly that.

     The coaching staff is led by head coach Renee DeVarney, who enters her 12th season at helm of the women’s basketball program. A former Division I player at the University of Vermont, DeVarney has coached at the high school, Division I, and Division III levels. She has been a finalist for DIII National Coach of the Year, and has had many successful seasons in charge of the Garnet, most notably the 2012-13 season, one of the best in the program’s history. Players appreciate her experience and knowledge of the game as a whole. In addition to DeVarney, the Garnet has added a new assistant coach, Lashay Banks, for the 2016-17 season. Banks, a Philadelphia native and standout athlete at the University of Cincinnati and Rider University, has added a noticeable new dimension to the coaching staff.

     “Banks brings a Division I mentality to practice,” O’Neil said. “She carries over what was expected of her at the Division I level to us, which is really pushing us as individuals to focus on our player development, and that has definitely stood out to us as players in practice so far.”

     The coaching staff for the 2016-17 season will continue to push the players to develop as much as possible, and will focus on balancing a winning mentality with the rigorous academics at Swarthmore College.

     Ultimately, the team’s major goal is to continue on a track of improvement and success in the 2016-17 season.

     “The goal is to set a foundation for this freshman class, and hope that they can continue to improve the program in the next four years,” O’Neil added. “I look at what the men’s basketball team is doing and how much they’ve improved over the last four years, and I hope we as seniors can set that legacy. Another tangible goal would be to make the conference playoffs.”

     The Swarthmore College women’s basketball team is motivated and ready to improve on the standards set last season. The team will open its season on Nov. 15th at home against Rosemont College, at 6:00 P.M. in the Tarble Gymnasium

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