Donnelly is beginning to hit her stride for the UMass women’s basketball team

A program record 10 blocks in win over Holy Cross, 12 points against New Hampshire

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Donnelly is beginning to hit her stride for the UMass women’s basketball team

Mehroz Kapadia

Mehroz Kapadia

Mehroz Kapadia

Mehroz Kapadia

By Tim Sorota, Collegian Staff

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In the Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s victory over Holy Cross on Sunday, Maeve Donnelly had a program record 10 blocks. In its win over New Hampshire the previous game, she scored a career-high 12 points on six for six shooting from the field.

It is safe to say that she is starting to hit her stride. The level of success so early on in her first collegiate season was not something Donnelly was expecting.

“I can’t believe it, honestly,” Donnelly said.  “I was excited to have the opportunity to play right away coming in, but I didn’t think I would be making as many strides as I am at the moment. It is really nice to have that feeling and have that opportunity.”

On Wednesday, Donnelly is poised for another big game when the Minutewomen (6-3) travel to face Boston University. The Binghamton, New York native will be taller than every BU player by at least four inches.

As a team, the Terriers (3-4) have 12 blocks. Donnelly, herself, has 31.

BU does however have solid post players, most notably six-foot-one-inch senior Nia Irving. Going against upperclassman is still a challenge for the freshman, but she has already shown the ability to win those matchups.

On Sunday against Holy Cross, Donnelly played 39 minutes, meaning it was almost exclusively her job to keep senior bigs Megan Swords and Lauren Manis in check. Swords failed to record a point while Manis was five-of-20 from the field. Junior center Shannon Murphy also played seven minutes as well, and like Swords, had a zero in the points column against Donnelly.

The Minutewomen outscored the Crusaders 38-20 in the paint thanks in large part to their highly touted freshman. She looks to carry that momentum into her matchup against BU’s Irving.

“I’m just excited,” Donnelly said. “I mean, they still have a really strong post player so it’s another game where I have to be a constant inside presence but after going up against Manis and Swords and all the other posts, I feel confident going in.”

Her teammates and coaches have confidence in her, as well.

Junior guard Bre Hampton-Bey knows what Donnelly can bring on the defensive end of the court. Donnelly’s inside presence makes Hampton-Bey’s job as a perimeter defender that much easier. She also says the young player’s energy is infectious.

“She’s been great,” Hampton-Bey said. “It’s been amazing to have her just killing the boards, just being very aggressive. We need that from her and I’m just glad she’s doing what she’s doing. Even when she’s making layups, getting crazy blocks. We love that, all her energy. As long as she keeps that positive energy, it’s going to go for us.”

Through her first nine collegiate games, Donnelly has been more of a force on the defensive end. Her offense has taken a bit longer to develop, but she’s confident that it will. Once it does, she will be hard to deal with on either end of the floor.

“I want to work hard every day, get more physical, get more confident in the post,” Donnelly said. “It is still kind of an area I am working on because I’m just so young still and there’s a lot going on. But we work hard and I’m looking forward to what I can do in the future.”

It is a safe bet that future opponents of Donnelly and the Minutewomen are not saying the same thing.

Tim Sorota can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TimSorota.