Stonehill women’s basketball is in its first season as a Division I program and member of the Northeast Conference (NEC).
In the first month of the season, Stonehill has felt what it was like to compete at the highest level of college basketball. Although the players did not sign up to play at the DI level, Stonehill was ready for the increased level of competition and enhanced spotlight on the program. That transition forced the team to go through an early adjustment period.
The Skyhawks started off the season on a four-game losing streak against Lehigh, Providence, Buffalo, and Fairfield. That slow start did not deter Stonehill as the Skyhawks earned its first-ever DI win with a 62-35 victory over Hartford on November 21. Stonehill head coach Trisha Brown has embraced the new opportunity and made the necessary adjustments. Brown, who started her 22nd season as Stonehill’s head coach, spoke with the NEC Overtime! Blog about the transition.
“It has been challenging to stay the least. The great part of it is how our student-athletes really got excited about the challenge and the move to Division I and our team has been phenomenal about it,” Brown said. “We knew that we were going to see a different level of athleticism, size and strength. One of the biggest changes for us was that you could be an undersized post in the NE10 and find a lot of success. Now you are facing 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-3-inch players consistently.”
This season, Stonehill adjusted to facing bigger opponents. Brown referenced her time coaching in the NE10, which was Stonehill’s DII conference. While coaching in the NE10, Brown won the conference tournament twice and reached the NCAA DII Tournament 13 times.
Along with Brown, Stonehill’s players were able to overcome the early-season adversity. Stonehill captains Emily Bramanti and Sophie Glidden reflected on the team’s difficult non-conference schedule.
“Non-conference has been a really fun challenge for us. We have used it to improve our team. We have grown over the last week-and-a-half to win games and play our best basketball,” Glidden said.
For Bramanti, she recognized how Stonehill used the non-conference schedule to come together as a collective unit.
“We have been playing as a collective five people playing on the floor. It takes 11 of us to win a game,” Bramanti said. “Recently, we have been playing collectively. We have been playing unselfish basketball.”
Bramanti and Glidden have played important roles in the team’s recent turnaround in December. The two captains joined the program in 2018 and decided to return to Stonehill for a fifth season in 2022. Brown described Bramanti and Glidden as “coach’s dream” over the last five years.
In December, Stonehill went 2-1 to begin the month with wins over New Hampshire and Bryant.
In the win over Bryant, Stonehill benefited from Bramanti’s 38-point performance, which earned her NEC Co-Player of the Week honors on December 12.
Following a last-second, one-point setback against defending America East champion Albany on December 14, Stonehill’s final two games of the non-conference schedule will be against Northeastern, and Queens (NY).
With conference play set to begin in early January, the Skyhawks’ confidence is growing.
Glidden and Bramanti recalled Merrimack’s recent elevation to the DI ranks and their hope is for Stonehill to enjoy a similar level of success during its transition. The Warriors finished 13-5 in their inaugural NEC campaign back in 2019-20 after competing in the NE10 as a DII program for 35 years.
Brown sought input from several NEC coaches about the conference after the membership announcement last spring.
Merrimack head coach Kelly Morrone and St. Francis Brooklyn head coach Linda Cimino were the first to welcome her and Stonehill to the conference. Brown said that Morrone gave her welcome advice on the transition from coaching in the NE10 to the NEC.
In looking to set the tone for the program’s time in the NEC, Brown mentioned the program’s goals for this season.
“We have one goal this year. That goal is our success isn’t going to be determined by wins and losses. Our success is going to be determined by improvement. Every day we are looking to get better in practice. Staying focused on the process is the most important thing for us.”
Stonehill will begin NEC play at Central Connecticut on Monday, January 2, 2023.