STANDISH, Maine – The 2018-19 Saint Joseph's College women's basketball season begins with a pair of games in the Curry College Tip-Off Tournament this weekend, starting with contest versus Eastern Nazarene University on Friday at 7:00 PM.
The tilt against the Lions kicks off a 25-game regular-season schedule as the Monks set their sights on their fourth-consecutive Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship. Saint Joseph's, which has claimed four of the last five GNAC titles, graduated just three players from a team that went 28-2 overall with a perfect 16-0 conference record last winter.
STARTS AT THE TOP:
Head Coach Mike McDevitt '83 begins his 27th season (26 at SJC) on the college basketball sidelines and ranks among the most successful coaches in the history of NCAA DIII Women's Basketball. With a 528-193 (.732) career record, McDevitt is 17th among active head coaches in victories and 24th in winning percentage. In the history of NCAA DIII women's hoops, only nine coaches have racked up more 20-win seasons than McDevitt, who has reached the 20-victory plateau on 18 occasions. He is also one of just 31 coaches in NCAA DIII Women's Basketball history to reach the 500-win mark.
Coach McDevitt has guided his teams to 12 conference championships and has garnered 13 Coach of the Year accolades – including GNAC, Maine, and New England Women's Basketball Association (NEWBA) honors last winter - during his career.
CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN:
All four of the Monks' seniors – Emily Benway (Rochester, N.H.), Julia Champagne (Brunswick, Maine), Hannah Marks (Waldoboro, Maine), and Kelsi McNamara (West Newbury, Mass.) - will serve as team captains this season.
WHERE WE LEFT OFF:
Under the guidance of McDevitt last winter, Saint Joseph's posted a 28-2 overall record with a 16-0 mark in GNAC play last season en route to earning the top seed in the conference tournament for the third-consecutive season. In tourney play, the Monks defeated Mount Ida College and Albertus Magnus College in the quarter and semi finals, respectively, and toppled Suffolk University, 73-59, in the GNAC Championship at the Harold Alfond Center on February 24th. In the NCAA Tournament, St. Joe's drew Little East Conference Champion UMass.-Boston and rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to defeat the Beacons, 61-56, and claim the first NCAA tourney triumph in program history.
Saint Joseph's faced off against reigning National Champion Amherst College - on their home court - in second round action the following day. In a game featuring six lead changes and five tie scores, the Monks pushed the Mammoths to the edge but eventually fell, 53-47, to a team that went on to defend their national crown and extend their winning streak to 66 games in the process.
The Monks graduated three seniors last spring, as guard Emily DeLuca and forwards Brianne Maloney and Regan McFerran all walked the stage in May. This trio helped Saint Joseph's post an incredible 91-23 (.798) overall record, including a 48-7 (.873) mark in conference play, with three GNAC Championships while donning the Royal Blue. DeLuca, Maloney, and McFerran combined to score 325 points with 264 rebounds, 116 assists, and 48 steals last winter.
McNamara headlines the group of returners after averaging 18.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 42.3% (187-442) from the floor, 39.6% (90-227) from three-point range, and 81.8% (99-121) from the FT line during her junior season, after which she was named First Team All-Conference, First Team All-State, NEWBA First Team All-Region, and D3hoops.com Second Team All-Region. Through three seasons, McNamara has scored 1,431 points with 267 rebounds, 421 assists, and 149 steals in 88 career games.
Benway, a two-time Second Team All-Conference selection, averaged 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per contest last year. During her junior season, the fourth-year starter posted the second-highest field goal percentage (.569) in program history. Benway heads into her senior season having scored 922 points with 581 rebounds, 78 assists, and 66 steals in 84 career contests.
Champagne, the 2018 GNAC Defensive Player of the Year, averaged 12.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game and established career-highs in essentially all statistical categories last season. The third-year starter, who also garnered Second Team All-State and Third Team All-Conference accolades last winter, goes into her final collegiate campaign having scored 713 points with 424 boards, 193 assists, and 118 steals in 88 career games.
Marks averaged 10.5 points and 4.6 rebounds during her junior season and figures to be a key player for the Monks again this winter. Although she has somehow flown beneath the radar as far as accolades are concerned, Marks is a tremendous shooter who led the conference with a 41.5% (59-142) three-point shooting performance while posting an 81.4% (48-59) rate from the FT line last year. She heads into her final season with 661 points, 324 rebounds, 115 assists, and 63 steals in 88 career contests.
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH:
Coach McDevitt has augmented his roster with a talented freshman class comprised of six players: forwards Page Brown (Boothbay, Maine) and Grace Philippon (Glenburn, Maine) and guards Tia Day (Monmouth, Maine), Alyson Fillion (Bedford, N.H.), Sophie Giardina (Bradenton, Fla.), and Kaleigh Walsh (Windham, N.H.). In accordance with how quickly they adjust to the college game, all six players will likely log valuable minutes this season.
GAMES TO SEE:
Sunday, November 25th at USM: In the annual Costello Cup matchup, the Monks look to post their fourth-consecutive win over the Huskies in a 5:30 PM start at Fifield Court in Gorham. St. Joe's, which toppled Southern Maine by a 69-41 score at the Alfond Center last winter, has never defeated the Huskies in four-consecutive meetings.
Wednesday, November 28th at UNE: The Monks play their second measuring stick game in a matter of four days with a trip to Biddeford to take on the 2018 Commonwealth Coast Conference Champions. SJC defeated UNE by a 74-53 score in Standish last season, the Monks' first win over the Nor'easters since the 2003-04 season. The victory over their in-state rival snapped a 13-game losing streak at the hands of UNE.
Saturday, January 26th vs. Suffolk: The Monks host the Rams in a rematch of the 2018 GNAC Championship game, which Saint Joseph's won by a 73-59 score at the Alfond Center on February 24th. Suffolk returns the bulk of a roster that went 21-7 overall with a 12-4 mark in GNAC play last season and figure to be in the conference title hunt again this winter.
Tuesday, February 5th vs. Emmanuel: A matchup featuring two of the most successful GNAC women's basketball programs – the Saints (7) and Monks (4) have combined to win 11 of the last 12 conference crowns. Saint Joseph's has defeated Emmanuel in four-consecutive meetings, including twice in the GNAC Championship (2016, 2017), but the Saints have reloaded and look to snap the losing skid this season.