Freshmen contributing early in season for Minutewomen

By David Martin

Maria Uminski/Collegian

One of the most important keys to success for any team in a new year is the training and development of fresh young talent.

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team is seeing those benefits just two games into the 2010-2011 season.

Despite losing both games this past weekend (a close game at home against George Mason and a blowout in Providence), the team has seen significant contributions from the freshman squad in both performances.

Take, for instance, that the four freshmen who have played Minutewomen thus far have already logged 82 combined minutes, along with contributing 24 of the 48 points scored in the game against Providence (they have 30 combined points total on the season). 

In the first game against George Mason, freshman Talen Watson made a strong statement in her first-ever collegiate game for the Maroon and White, playing 31 minutes and scoring six points while tallying two rebounds and one steal. 

It was in the second game against the Friars, however, in which the rookie players really made their mark on the court.

“I thought all four [freshmen] came in, in a tough situation, and did well,” UMass head coach Sharon Dawley said in her weekly radio appearance. “I think that they did outplay the veterans and I think that [the veteran’s] play was a fatigue issue. It is hard for them to play a whole game on Friday night and then follow it up with a game on Sunday.  The freshmen, having fresh legs, were able to give us more effort in terms of guts and going for lost balls because they are fresher.”

“It was great to be able to put in four freshmen and just say, ‘We are all struggling today and we need you to give it everything you got,’” Dawley added.  “I think they did.  I think they played real hard, especially Sara [English], to be thrown into a really physical Providence team and battle, it was great.”

While English saw two minutes in Friday’s home game, she earned her first real playing time against the Friars. She played nine minutes, scored five points, grabbed five rebounds and had four fouls.

In terms of speed, the key freshman to look out for is Abbey Lalime.

Lalime certainly turned heads with her speed on Sunday, especially with a memorable steal in the second half.

“Abbey is the quickest kid on our team,” Dawley said.  “She is a prolific scorer, but when you throw a small guard into a Providence game, you just hope she can get some shots off.  With the shot blocking that was going on during the game, you have to think that, on her mind, is that her shots are going to be blocked.  But, to her credit, she kept her mind clear and did well in her first college outing.”

Kelley Robinson, though she didn’t have as good of a night statistically as her other freshman teammates, did play a strong offensive game and showed good leadership skills throughout.

Robinson played nine minutes and scored two points, while also posting an assist and two steals.

Dave Martin can be reached at [email protected]