Fifteen girls, two years, and one court. A relatively new team on the Heights, Boston College women’s club basketball is ringing in its second year in considerable style—a trip to nationals for the first time later this month.
After going through the process of becoming an official club team last year, the team is well into its second year and putting up consistently strong performances. Comprised of 15 girls, 12 of whom play and travel with the team, it is a tight-knit group on and off of the court.
“We have a lot of fun, probably too much fun,” Jenn Cillis, team treasurer and MCAS ’16 said. “We joke around a lot. It’s intense but not too intense.”
Speaking to that intensity is the considerably long season in which the team is competitively active. Beginning with tryouts in October every year, the team practices continuously throughout the winter and into the early spring, ultimately culminating in April’s tournament season. With sights set on the future, the potential for a second round of tryouts early in the second semester is currently under consideration by the team’s executive board.
Though the season is long, spanning practically the entire academic year, being one of the newest club teams at BC makes for an active and fresh environment with a young group of players. The potential for growth is huge, and as the team gains momentum toward becoming a well-established club sport, many of the returning players continue to take on essential administrative duties and expand the e-board.
Current point guard Martha Veroneau, CSON ’17, started the team alongside Maria Ferrari, BC ’15, in the spring of 2014. It initially began as an intramural team that went to the club tournament and greatly exceeded expectations, ultimately reaching the championship game. The following semester, fall of 2014, the team was granted club status and has continued to grow in talent ever since. The level of play is in between that of intramural and varsity, and many of the girls involved played competitively at the high school level but have ambitions to continue playing at a collegiate level.
Following the founding of the men’s club basketball team the year before, there was immediately an overwhelming interest in expanding club basketball to include a women’s team. The reception was very positive, and the level of talent that the team attracted was appropriately quite high.
The competitive tone was set immediately at its inception as a club sport—35 extremely qualified girls tried out for only 18 spots. This initial competitiveness continues to grow and develop as the team does, and the team boasts a group of extremely active athletes, many of whom participate in intramural teams as well.
Among the nuances of being a new club team, open tryouts attracted players from all grades, noted Cillis. Being an upperclassmen and participating in a newer sport with no definitive precedent to work with was, in her words, unexpected. Being a junior leader on a competitive team has been a novel and learning experience.
“Not a ton of seniors are on the team,” Cillis said. “And not a lot of people get to do that junior year.”
Despite this unique structure of seniority that is indicative of the team’s infancy, the athletes on the younger end of the spectrum show a remarkable amount of promise. It is understood that the key to longevity is underclassman talent, and in this regard the future is bright.
“We have a really strong group, especially freshmen,” Veroneau said. “They are all coming off of their senior seasons of high school basketball.”
Also crucial to the the team’s hot start and continued success is its leadership on the coaching and administrative side of the ball.
At the helm as coach is Margaret Brown, BC ’12, an older sister to team members Martha and Catherine Veroneau known for her intense and highly motivational halftime speeches. Though this position is Brown’s first coaching experience, her basketball resume boasts a plethora of intramural basketball championships during her time at BC.
Also on the administrative side of things, the e-board consists of president Amanda Dames, LSOE ’16, vice president Shea North, CSON ’18, treasurer Jenn Cillis, MCAS ’16, and secretary Kara Foley, MCAS ’17, as well as a team of campus representatives.
As is the case with many club teams, however, this structure of administration doesn’t necessarily translate to a hierarchy within the team. When it is out on the hardwood, everyone has an equally important role.
“We are there to formally organize stuff,” North said. “It isn’t divided at all.”
In addition, tryouts occur annually, and there are no guaranteed spots for returning players, even for former members of the e-board. This competitive atmosphere and rate of turnover creates a fluid and dynamic atmosphere in which everyone is treated equally on the team.
As far as competition is concerned, the team competes mostly locally—Boston University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and similar schools in the Boston area are their primary opponents. This competition takes place within the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) league, a national governing body for club-level intercollegiate athletics.
The team’s guaranteed spot in NIRSA Nationals comes after a recent victory over rival BU in the championship game of the NIRSA Regional Tournament at BU this past March.
Though this qualification for the national tournament is impressive, it merely follows a precedent set by last year’s debut team. Last year’s team was able to secure a spot in the national tournament, but it did not have the funding to make the trip due to its insufficient budget as a small, first-year club team.
This year, however, things are different. Properly funded and determined to make a name for themselves, all sights are firmly set on NIRSA Basketball Championships.
The team will travel to Ohio State University from April 22 through 24 to represent BC on the national stage.
The goal, in short?
“We plan to reel in the hardware, all while finessing,” North said.
Featured Image courtesy of Catherine Veroneau