UMass women’s basketball expects big turnout for Field Trip Day game

By Jesse Mayfield Sheehan

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Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Morning games typically mean smaller crowds for most sporting events.

But when the Massachusetts women’s basketball team hosts George Washington on Wednesday morning, it will be expecting a larger crowd than usual as hundreds of children from local elementary schools come out for the team’s annual Field Trip Day game.

On Field Trip Day, students in kindergarten through eighth grade can come to the game for free, resulting in a big turnout from the local schools.

At last year’s Field Trip Day against La Salle, there was an official attendance of 1,682, more than three times the team’s average attendance for that season (452).

“Usually, we don’t have too many fans in here,” junior captain Emily Mital said. “So, having a couple thousand screaming kids, it kind of gets us hyped up and we feed off the energy.”

Mital added that the Minutewomen (3-18, 0-7 A-10) are hungry for a victory as they approach the midway point of Atlantic 10 Conference play still looking for their first conference win.

“Every game, we’re like, ‘It’s going to be this one, it’s going to be this one,” she said. “That’s kind of the only attitude that we can have.”

The Colonials (13-7, 4-3 A-10) won their first three conference games but has since lost three of their last four. UMass defeated the Colonials last year at the Mullins Center by a score of 62-58, but coach Sharon Dawley said the focus right now is on the present.

“I don’t really look that much on last year, to be honest,” she said. “We’re going on the scouting report and what we were able to find and key matchups for us, and I think we match up pretty well against them.”

This year, GW boasts the third best offense in the conference, averaging 76.3 points per game. The team has four players averaging at least 10 points a game and is led by Danni Jackson, who is averaging 12.4 points and 5.5 assists per game, and Jonquel Jones, who averages 13.2 points and 10 rebounds per game.

“All of them, we really have to remember the scout, and we really know their tendencies,” Dawley said. “They’re all very, very talented and very different from one another.”

The Minutewomen will most likely enter the game once again without junior forward Paula Tarnachowicz. The transfer student from Panola College suffered an ankle injury in last Wednesday’s loss to Dayton and Dawley said her status is currently day-to-day.

Another player trying to get back into top shape for UMass is Nola Henry. The sophomore guard caught the flu earlier this month and has not played more than 20 minutes of a game in the team’s last three matchups. Dawley said Henry is still not at full strength yet, and the team is gradually working her back into the lineup.

“Nola was out for quite a while. It was a flu that she couldn’t kick, and then on top of that, she wasn’t able to eat for quite a few days,” she said. “So, she’s very weak right now. We’re hoping that as her strength increases, and she’s back to normal, that her minutes will go up.”

Tipoff for the game is set for 11:45 a.m.

Jesse Mayfield-Sheehan can be reached at [email protected] and can be followed on Twitter @jgms88.