The storylines from last year’s groundbreaking season for Boston College women’s basketball have all been tapped out. Written and heralded again and again, the legend of the 2019-20 season is widely known. But it’s worth repeating.
The Eagles had arguably the best season they’ve had since famed head coach Cathy Inglese was at the helm back in the ’90s and early ’00s. Finishing with a 20-12 overall record last year, a deep postseason run—or about as deep as it could be before the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament—the Eagles earned a long list of accolades, including an ACC Most Improved Player award for Taylor Soule and the honor of ACC Coach of the Year for head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee.
But that was last year. With a new, unusual season on the horizon and despite a pessimistic perspective from the national media, the Eagles have high expectations, including sitting near the middle of the ACC Preseason Poll.
The reason BC’s middling preseason ranking is so surprising is because of the number of returning players from the Eagles’ historic run last season. The junior class, in particular, will be especially impactful, like they were last season. Soule, Cameron Swartz, Makayla Dickens, and Marnelle Garraud will all return after putting together stellar sophomore campaigns.
Soule has already found her name on the Preseason All-ACC Team and the Naismith Trophy Watch List after her breakout sophomore season. After nearly averaging a double-double with 14.5 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game—nearly double her totals from her freshman season—Soule cemented herself as an offensive weapon for the Eagles.
Bernabei-McNamee said that the Eagles also have a host of talent coming up from supporting roles. Sophomore Jaelyn Batts and junior Clara Ford are expected to make big contributions this season.
“I look for those three [Soule, Dickens, and Garraud] to really calm everybody’s nerves and play like veterans out there, and then that’s going to allow players like Clara [Ford], who is a veteran in her own right but doesn’t have that playing experience, to really shine on the court,” Bernabei-McNamee said during a media conference on Monday.
After missing her entire freshman season due to an injury, sophomore Akunna Konkwo will also see the court this year. Before BC, she graduated from Bishop Ireton as the all-time leading scorer with 2,345 points and the leading rebounder with 1,800 boards. With Konkwo back on the court, the Eagles will have added depth at center.
The Cavs had Kyrie, LeBron, and Kevin Love. The Heat had Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron again. The Eagles had Emma Guy, Georgia Pineau, and Taylor Ortlepp.
Past tense is key here, because what’s most different about this year’s roster from last year’s is the absence of the Eagles’ “Big Three,” a group of seniors that saw the Eagles go from national bottom feeders to legitimate NCAA contenders in just four short years on the Heights.
Guy, the only player on the Eagles’ roster to start every game last season, was named to the All-ACC First Team and All-ACC Blue Ribbon Panel Second Team in 2019-20. She ranked No. 1 in the ACC and No. 10 in the nation in field goal percentage with 59.4 percent. She now plays professionally in Greece.
Pineau and Ortlepp both returned home to Australia to play professionally after graduation in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL).
On the flip side, though, BC picked up some important incoming recruits, including JoJo Lacey, Sydney McQuietor, and Kaylah Ivey. Lacey, the No. 39 recruit in the country out of Douglassville, Pa., is a five-star addition to the Eagles’ roster, and Bernabei-McNamee said she expects Lacey to get some major minutes this year as a freshman. Ivey will add depth as a guard to the Eagles’ already guard-heavy roster.
In such an unconventional year, the Eagles will face some unconventional opponents as well. BC opened its season on Wednesday against New Hampshire, followed by at least two more non-conference games against UMass and Providence soon after. What was originally scheduled to be a Dec. 6 matchup with Northeastern is now up in the air, as Northeastern has paused all of its athletics through Dec. 18.
A 20-game conference slate awaits the Eagles afterward, starting with Georgia Tech on Dec. 9 and finishing at Syracuse on Feb. 25. Read the full schedule breakdown here.
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics