Women’s hoops looks to win GNAC after an impressive finish last year

The past two seasons the Norwich women’s basketball team has fallen short of being conference champions. This year, the women are preparing to come out on top. “We can be more than competitive within and outside of conference,” according to the women’s head coach.

Last year the women lost in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) semifinals to Johnson and Wales (JWU). JWU is one of Norwich’s toughest competitors. “They returned just about everyone,” said Mark Zacker, head coach.

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Other competitive teams on the women’s schedule are Emmanuel College and St. Joe’s in Maine, said Zacker. Emanuel went undefeated in GNAC play last year and have many returning players as well.
The cadets plan to have a large defensive and offensive post presence this year. “We have 2nd Team All-Conference Heather LeBlanc returning,” said Zacker, talking about the 6-foot center. “We will be looking to utilize her ability in the post.”
Last year LeBlanc scored over 300 points and 250 rebounds helping the cadets to an impressive record of 22-6.
“Our goal is to be better in February and March than we were in November,” said Zacker. The women want to progress throughout the season: “Winning breeds winning.”
The cadets lost four seniors but gained eight new freshmen. Zacker added that there are some open positions to fill but the returners and freshman will be able to adapt.
The captains, LeBlanc and Leah Turcotte, are going to be important to the team’s success this season. “I have been really pleased with reports about our captains helping the lower-classmen learn how we play and how we want things done in the program,” said Zacker.
The captains have been very forgiving and helpful as well, said Zacker.
The women were a senior-led team last year with only three freshmen. Zacker said the immediate disadvantages of having a lot of new players would later turn into advantages.“The freshmen will be here year after year and fill into leadership roles within the program,” said Zacker.
LeBlanc, who is a 20- year- old junior sports medicine major from Sanford, Maine, agreed with Zacker about the freshmen players. “The freshmen are meeting our expectations and our standards,” she said.
For the freshmen,the goal is to try to adapt to the practices and workload being heavier and faster than in high school, said guard Naomi Rinaldo, an 18- year-old freshman political science major, from Middlefield, Conn.
The cadets have their eyes set on being the GNAC champions this year, last year’s close call still firmly in mind.
“Last year was extremely disappointing losing in the conference championship semi-finals,” said sophomore guard Emily Bonomi, 19, a physical education major from Plantsville, Conn. “We were capable of so much more.”
Last year the cadets graduated multi-award winner Aliah Curry, who had a career total of over 2000 points and Kelsey Lotti, who had 1000 points. Aliah averaging about 22 points a game was a major factor in the team’s success. But that isn’t daunting LeBlanc.
“We have a lot of players that have improved from last year and freshmen that will step up into important roles,” said LeBlanc. “This team has what it takes to be champions.”
The women will begin their season at home on Nov. 17 against Plattsburgh State.

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