College basketball: MCLA women set to begin the regular season

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NORTH ADAMS — When the MCLA women take to the basketball court tonight, it will mark the second year under head coach Loren Stock.

"It's very different," than last year, Stock said. "From a leadership standpoint, we lost seven people — six seniors — and a lot of them had a lot of game experience and leadership experience. It's a little bit more exciting this year, seeing the underclassmen grow into their own and see who's going to step up and take on that leadership role."

The Trailblazers open their season against SUNY Cobleskill at the Amsler Campus Center. Last year, these two teams played in the opener, and Cobleskill earned a 66-60 win in Stock's first-ever game as a head coach.

She joined the MCLA staff after spending four years as an assistant coach at Mount Holyoke, Westfield State and her alma mater Western New England.

The Traibllazers were 10-16 last year and 3-9 in MASCAC play. MCLA is picked to finish sixth in the seven-team league, but did garner one first-place vote. Westfield and Framingham are the co-favorites to win the regular-season title.

After tonight's opener, MCLA will play three straight road games before returning to Amsler for a home tilt with Utica on Nov. 29.

Last year was Stock's first season as a head coach at any level, and she said the 2016-17 season was a learning experience for both her and the team.

"It's looking at the past year, reflecting a little bit professionally and improving," she said, "seeing if I can get better and giving the girls what they need.

"For me, it's the excitement,. I'm more excited to see people step up and form into these roles."

Stock has a 13-player roster, and the only senior is Drury graduate Emily Moulton. The 5-foot-10 forward played in 23 games last year and started 21.

The Trailblazers will have to make up more than 25 points per game that were erased when Kayla Hotaling and Courtney McLaughlin both graduated. Hotaling, by the way, will be an assistant coach at Hoosac Valley High School. McLaughlin, meanwhile, is now an assistant on Stock's staff. She and Nina Nunes were hired in the off-season.

Hotaling and McLaughlin were the go-to scorers last year when the team needed points.

This year, the two leading returning scorers are junior guard Karina Mattera and Moulton. Mattera averaged 7.7 points and three rebounds, while Moulton averaged 6.1 points a 4.6 rebound.

McKenzie Robinson, junior guard from Adams, saw a lot of action but was a spot starter last year. Robinson is a talented conductor of a basketball team and might be filling the same role this year.

Junior Sam Gawron from South Hadley and junior Courtney Pingelski of Mechanicville, N.Y., are the other returning top scorers.

The Trailblazers have a bit of size, with 6-foot-1 sophomroe Erika Ryan, and the 5-10 Gawron, Moulton and L'Rae Brundige.

"I need all five of them [on the court] to be firing on all cylinders," said Stock. "All five of them out there, even the sixth and seventh person I sub in, has a certain expectation, knows what I expect and can get the job done."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, and 413-496-6253.

MCLA women

Last year: 10-16, 3-9 in MASCAC

Coach: Loren Stock, second year

Opener: Tonight, 6:30 p.m., vs. SUNY Cobleskill

Holiday tourney: Holiday Inn West Springfield/Naismith Classic, Dec. 30 and 31 at Springfield College. MCLA will play Springfield and Babson.

Conference play: Saturday, Jan. 6 vs. Westfield State at home


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