Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Postera and Shelffo: Five predictions for 2023-24 women’s basketball season

Taking a look at UMass women’s hoops before Nov. 6 opener
Kayla Wong
Daily Collegian (2023)

1. Transfers will fill in gaps of past players

With Sam Breen, Destiny Philoxy and Sydney Taylor gone from Massachusetts women’s basketball, there is a need for newcomers to step up.

Incoming seniors Alexsia Rose and Jermany Mapp might be new to the Minutewomen, but they are very familiar with the game of basketball. Mapp, a 6’0 guard, transferred to UMass and will add to the height of the team in the paint, and her athleticism will show in her scoring and rebounding abilities. Rose comes to UMass from Eastern Carolina where she was a spark off the bench, bringing energy and effort in times of need. Both newcomers have the ability to score, and bring experience to a young team. Mapp and Rose make up where gaps have been left, filling out the Minutewomen’s roster.

Graduate student Tori Hyduke also joins the Minutewomen. After playing three seasons at Drexel, Hyduke comes to fortify the Massachusetts back court. Head coach Mike Lafler weighed in, predicting hydukes ‘’great opportunity to impact our program right away.”

“I think we can win by having different players step up and different pieces step up,” Leflar said.

2. Stephanie Kulesza will show out for the minutewomen

Last year’s predictions said that Kulesza would have an expanded role for the Minutewomen, aiding the offense and finding consistency in scoring. They say history repeats itself, and Kuleza’s offseason work and exhibition stats set her up for a successful 2023-’24 season.

After the 2022-2023 season, the 5’11 guard/forward will continue to improve her game and amplify her role for the Minutewomen. After appearing in only 7 games her freshman year, she upped the ante her sophomore season to 16, and was seen in a total of 27 this past season. Shooting 43.5 percent from the field last season, Kulesza looks to improve her shooting this year and become a central part of the UMass rotation. After contributing 19 points to the Minutewomens exhibition win vs Assumption, she is well on her way.

Kulesza has seen time as a guard for the Minutewomen. This year, with 10 out of 13 players being new, her role has changed for UMass and Kulesza will take her shot at forward.

3. Lilly Taulelei will find a spot in the UMass rotation

The 6’3 center joins the Minutewomen after a successful season with the Tokomanawa queens, and her experience with competitive basketball shows on the court.

During the women’s preseason exhibition, Taulelei shot 60 percent, scoring 14. The offensive effort put forth exhibits promise in the freshman, and her defensive mindset adds to her competitive nature. Besides her seven baskets, Taulelei also snagged three rebounds. With practice at the Mullins court, and a decrease of first game jitters, there’s no question these numbers will start to rise.

Leflar has prided Laulelei on her “aggressive” defensive efforts on the court vs Assumption, and she has weighed in on her growth as a defensive player saying, “I pride myself on being pretty strong on defense, being pretty physically.”

With offensive strengths and a defensive mindset, expect Taulelei to integrate herself into UMass’ rotation.

4. The 2023-24 team will exceed expectations

The Atlantic 10 conference put out their preseason rankings and put the Minutewomen at 11th. Additionally, the Minutewomen didn’t get a single player on the preseason all-conference teams as well as the all conference defensive teams.

UMass certainly has a different roster from last year’s regular season champion and A-10 tournament runner up, however this roster is better than how it looks on paper. The aforementioned Kelusza, Kristin Williams and Lilly Furgerson returned and will bring that winning culture from past years to a mostly new squad with a new head coach. In the exhibition, the trio put up a collected 47, accounting for more than half of UMass total points. Additionally, the team pulled down 20 offensive rebounds in their win over Assumption. They led for nearly 36 minutes out of the 40 in the contest. Assumption isn’t a cakewalk Division II team. They made the Elite Eight last year and only lost two players to graduation in the process. The Minutewomen are poised to exceed their projected mark.

5. Dallas Pierce will shoot 40 percent from three

Dallas Pierce had a great performance in the exhibition game versus Assumption that could foreshadow great shooting and a possible big role as a freshman. She had 12 points in just 14 minutes of play. Of those 12 points, six of them came from behind the arc where she was 2-2. Overall, she was 5-6 from the field. Pierce hails from the Sanford School in Delaware where, in her three years, she averaged 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists. In her senior year she was the only player in the state to shoot 50% from the field, 40% from three, and 90% from the charity stripe, leading her team to a state championship appearance. All in all, role aside, Dallas Pierce is an extremely efficient shooter and will look to continue that in her first year for the Minutewomen. Efficiency from the field is something that could leverage her into a big role.

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