Sports, Winter, Basketball, Women's Basketball

Back On Track: 2021-22 Women’s Basketball Preview

For Boston College women’s basketball, this season will be all about turning the page on last year. In a year dominated by COVID-19 in which little went according to plan, BC’s season was no exception. Though they received some stellar individual seasons from those like Taylor Soule, Makayla Dickens, and Marnelle Garraud, the Eagles failed to live up to the lofty expectations that had preceded the season and finished 7–12 overall. The arrival of the new season will bring the return of fans in the stands and the emergence of some talented young Eagles. Along with the return of head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee’s entire starting five, the Eagles hope that the upcoming season will revitalize the team.

Doing so, however, will not be easy. Yet again, the ACC is poised to be a formidable conference. Loaded with powerhouse programs such as Louisville and NC State, the conference boasts five teams ranked in the Preseason AP Top 25 Poll. No conference has more. The Eagles currently sit near the bottom of the conference after finishing 13th last year and are ranked 11th in this year’s ACC Preseason Poll

The road ahead for the Eagles appears daunting, but the presence of strong senior leadership that they lacked last year will certainly make matters easier. While the Eagles had no seniors on the team last year, all five consistent starters were juniors, meaning that the Eagles will trot out a full lineup of seniors this season.

“I think one of our strengths is our senior leadership,” Bernabei-McNamee said at BC’s 2021 Media Day. “I think we have some players that have been with me now for years and they understand what we’re trying to accomplish on the offensive and defensive end.”

Garraud is one of many seniors to keep an eye on. Her defensive tenacity is something she takes pride in and it shows, having been named to the ACC’s All-Defensive Team last year. Cam Swartz struggled with shooting on the whole last season, but she is an unmatched scorer when she’s on and was outstanding in the ACC Tournament. Dickens was one of the best outside scorers in the country, hitting 45 percent of her 3-point attempts. 

Despite the strong play of the rest of the senior cast, Soule is the key figure on this squad. After being named to the All-ACC First Team last year and with her name dotted through preseason awards lists, Soule has her sights set on even higher goals this year. Soule isn’t just satisfied with the lengthy list of personal accolades—she’s also looking to guide her team toward success in the ACC Tournament and a March Madness berth. Her offseason work developing her 3-point shooting will help boost her already impressive average of 15.7 points per game from a season ago. 

“I think she could be the best small forward in the country this year with her work ethic and I hope that as the year goes on everybody’s gonna see that she’s so much more than just a kid who runs fast up and down the court,” Bernabei-McNamee said. 

Despite the loss of sophomore forward Sydney McQuietor to Boise State via the transfer portal, a deep group of underclassmen aim to supplement the roster’s veteran presence. Look to underclassmen Ally VanTimmeren, Allie Palmieri, and Kaylah Ivey, in particular, to provide a spark off of the bench. VanTimmeren and Palmieri both graduated high school early and enrolled at BC mid-season last year. That extra experience will be a bonus for the pair as they move into their true freshman season. The Eagles also added NC State transfer Dontavia Waggoner. Waggoner was a top recruit out of high school, and Bernabei-McNamee raved about the intensity she brings to the defensive end. 

“I would love bringing energy both on and off the court,” Palmieri said during Media Day. “If they need me to be a hype man, be that teammate that has their back, come in and have great defense, get a steal—honestly, whatever the team needs. And I’ll just always be loud.”

Though the 2021–22 schedule will be full of challenges, there will definitely be no shortage of exciting games. The Eagles open the season with a series of non-conference matchups against Northeast teams, starting with Tuesday’s clash against Harvard in Conte Forum. 

ACC play kicks off on Dec. 19 when North Carolina comes to Chestnut Hill, a good spot for BC to kick off conference play with a win as the Tar Heels are ranked just a few spots higher than BC in the preseason poll. The slate will get much harder after that as the Eagles head to Louisville to play a highly ranked Cardinals squad that trounced BC twice last year. BC will follow it up with a game against Notre Dame. 

Other key matchups include a Feb. 10 game at home against NC State, the top-ranked team in the preseason poll. BC will conclude the season against Syracuse on Feb. 27 as the Eagles seek revenge against the program that knocked the Eagles out of the ACC Tournament a year ago. 

Featured Image by Liv Charbonneau / Heights Editor

November 7, 2021
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