UMass women’s basketball showcases new faces, improved returners in first exhibition game

Freshmen, Philoxy and Perry looking ready for 2019-20

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UMass women’s basketball showcases new faces, improved returners in first exhibition game

Mehroz Kapadia

Mehroz Kapadia

Mehroz Kapadia

Mehroz Kapadia

By Michael Townsend, Collegian Staff

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In the Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s 89-39 exhibition win against UMass Dartmouth on Monday night, three freshmen – Maeve Donnelly, Grace Heeps and Sydney Taylor – featured prominently.

The Minutewomen welcome a number of new faces in 2019-20, and some of these faces seem likely to see plenty of time on the court as freshman. Making their cases to be part of UMass’ early-season rotation, Donnelly started and logged 31 minutes, Heeps logged 24 and Taylor logged 17.

“I thought Maeve played really well,” Verdi said. “I thought she was really consistent scoring for us or blocking shots. I thought that Grace came in to get some really good minutes there, was really solid. I thought that Sydney Taylor was a scorer, I don’t like her turnovers, but I thought she did a really good job for us as far as attacking the basket and knocking down shots.”

Of all the freshmen among the Minutewomen, Maeve Donnelly appears to be the most college-ready. At 6’5”, Donnelly already possesses size that a lot of Division I programs don’t have. For a UMass team that has lacked height in previous years, Donnelly’s presence opens up the scheme for the Minutewomen. In her team-high 31 minutes on Monday, she scored seven points and led the Minutewomen with 12 rebounds.

“Definitely [what I’m looking to take out of this game is] not being nervous,” Donnelly said. “It was really obvious in the first half that everyone was kind of freaking out a little bit, but I think after the first half we came in at halftime and had a good talk and I think everyone came out and played their best game.”

Although Heeps only managed a rebound and a block in her 24 minutes and did not convert any of her four shots – all three-point attempts – she did not hurt the Minutewomen despite her struggles as she only committed one turnover. Taylor lost the ball five times but made up for her turnovers by scoring 12 points, going 5-for-8 from the floor and 1-for-3 from the three-point line.

Besides the incoming freshmen, other players who had smaller roles in past years look ready to break out in 2019-20. Destiney Philoxy, a sophomore guard, is wearing goggles for the first time this year and will look to use her improved vision to help the Minutewomen. Against UMass Dartmouth, Philoxy led the Minutewomen with 23 points, easily surpassing her average mark of 10.8 from her freshman season.

In addition to Philoxy, senior guard Vashnie Perry looks due for a breakout in her final season. After transferring from Florida Atlantic partway through her freshman year, Perry was unable to play for the remainder of that year. Over the next two seasons, Perry averaged 3.7 points as a sophomore and six as a junior as a role player, starting 15 out of 28 games her junior year.

Against UMass Dartmouth, Perry looked ready to step up further and become a leader, scoring 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting with an additional six rebounds, four assists, and game-high eight steals.

“I love being on the new court, it just brought a whole new vibe,” Perry said. “I just feel like it’s a new team, new me. It’s just so refreshing.”

The Minutewomen will play their first game at home on Nov. 5, against a Merrimack team that finished 20-10 last season. It will be a bit of a test for the Minutewomen to start the new season.

Michael Townsend can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @MichaelTowns777.