For the Massachusetts women’s basketball team, there is no shortage of leadership in the ranks.
The Minutewomen, who have five freshmen and two sophomores on their roster, will rely heavily on the on-court production and locker room leadership of a veteran squad that includes senior guards Megan Zullo and Emilie Teuscher, as well as junior forward Shakia Robinson.
In UMass’ 55-49 win over Boston University on Sunday afternoon, Zullo and Robinson scored 39 of the squad’s total points. More impressive, however, is how well the two maintained their team’s sense of confidence and determination to win, as the Terriers came back from several double-digit deficits to pull within striking distance late in the second half.
“We are not just going to settle for average,” said Robinson. “We came out, ready to go, and got that win.”
Last season, the Minutewomen went 7-23 and struggled to find their rhythm as they adjusted to the coaching system of their new coach, Sharon Dawley. Now in its second season with Dawley at the helm, UMass is better prepared and more confident in its abilities and potential on the court.
“I feel like we are a lot more in-sync with each other,” said Zullo. “[Last year] was our first year with coach [Dawley], and now we have her system down. Most of us have played with each other for a year and are comfortable on the court.”
Throughout the game, both Zullo and Robinson were very vocal with their teammates, making sure that everyone on the court knew what to do with the ball, how to defend BU and where to go in transition. Most importantly, they made sure that no one on the team lost confidence in themselves despite the Terriers’ efforts to tie the game.
“Every team is going to make their runs, so it is just all about keeping your composure,” said Zullo. “We kept our composure pretty well.”
“People are definitely not aware of what we have,” added Zullo. “They know that last year we were a team that could push everybody, but this year, we are going to be the team that finishes it. It is going to be interesting.”
In all, both Zullo and Robinson are expected to pave the way for their younger teammates to succeed through their contributions on the court. Zullo started all 30 games last season for the Minutewomen, averaging just shy of 38 minutes per game and 10.5 points per game with a 37.8 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
Robinson’s performance was also impressive last year. In 29 games, she averaged 27 minutes and 10.7 points per game while converting on 50 percent of her field goal opportunities.
As the Minutewomen prepare for Wednesday night’s game against Central Connecticut State at the Mullins Center, both players know that, in addition to successful execution of their game plan, they have to rely on each other’s guidance and energy to play a full game to the best of their abilities.
“The starting five are a year older in talent, a lot more mature and know each other very well,” said Robinson. “We know how to calm each other down, and once we are all calm, we are good to go.”
David Martin can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Martin.