CLICK HERE to read original article - written by Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Kevin Thomas
STANDISH — With a rout in the making Tuesday night, Saint Joseph's College women's basketball coach Mike McDevitt could start subbing freely in the second quarter. He has some underclassmen to groom for the future.
As for the present, these Monks are already making noise with a national ranking and mountainous expectations for 2018-19. Saint Joseph's is 2-0 following Tuesday's 87-50 romp over Thomas College.
"Our motivation goes higher and higher as the years go on," said 5-foot-10 forward Emily Benway.
Benway is one of four seniors who were the foundation of last year's historic 28-2 season, featuring a 27-game winning streak, first-ever win in the NCAA Tournament, and a down-to-the wire loss to eventual national champion Amherst.
Those accomplishments, plus the four seniors, have the Monks ranked 17th in the d3hoops.com preseason poll, and 22 in the WBCA poll.
"Yeah, it's cool," said senior forward Hannah Marks of Waldoboro. "But when it boils down to it, we have to work for it."
That's McDevitt's message.
"Before our first scrimmage, Coach put the (rankings) up on the board and he asked us what they meant," said senior guard Julia Champagne of Brunswick.
"Obviously, it's an honor having our team ranked. But it really means nothing unless we prove it."
Saint Joseph's ranking puts the Monks among the elite. Bowdoin College, Maine's best Division III program, has been routinely ranked, and is No. 2 in the preseason poll. The University of Southern Maine, a national power for years, is rebuilding. Colby and Bates have had their mentions in the poll, and the University of New England was in the d3hoops preseason poll twice, reaching No. 17 three years ago.
Saint Joseph's made a name for itself last season with the streak. But then the Monks proved they were no fluke, beating UMass-Boston in the NCAA first round, and then losing to Amherst 53-47 in the second round. It was the closest game the undefeated Mammoths had in the tournament. The Monks led in the closing minutes of the first half before trailing 25-24 at halftime. St. Joseph kept it close the rest of the way.
"At halftime, we were not really shocked. We knew we could do it," Champagne said.
"We're not just some small team in Maine that plays in some random conference. We actually can win games."
McDevitt can downplay the ranking, but he knows that Amherst game opened eyes.
"When you play a team like Amherst and pretty much play them even, we feel like we have the potential to play at that level," he said.
Can these four seniors be even better this year?
"We want to have our best season together," said senior guard and leading scorer Kelsi McNamara.
"We lost some key players from last year. Other people have to take over those roles."
Saint Joseph's graduated starter Regan McFerran and sixth-man Brianne Maloney.
The Monks' success will hinge on McNamara (18.8-point average last year, 90 3-pointers and 169 assists), Champagne (12.7 average), Benway (12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds) and Marks (10.3 average, 59 3-pointers).
"We know how to work together," McNamara said. "I know when I'm driving, Julia or Hannah will be out on the 3, or Emily will be down low, ready for the pass."
Saint Joseph's has two juniors – former Fryeburg Academy players, guard Julia Quinn and forward Lexi L'Heureux-Carland – and one sophomore (Waterville's Jordan Jabar, the other starter Tuesday night).
McDevitt brought in six freshmen this year.
Those freshmen, while being the future, could help this year. It should be another special season for the Monks – one that began with national attention.
"It's great recognition for our program," McDevitt said of the ranking. "But it doesn't give you extra points on the scoreboard. It doesn't mean anything (on the court). We talked about it once and I don't expect to talk about it again."
NOTE: Among the Monks' upcoming challenges will be games against USM (Nov. 25) and UNE (Nov. 28). Those two teams play at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Gorham.