WATERVILLE, Maine – Coming off its 15th consecutive winning season and a spot in the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) Tournament semifinals, the Castleton University women's basketball team is ready to once again compete for the conference title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Led by head coach Tim Barrett, entering his 17th year at the helm, the Spartans have been picked to finish second in the NAC in the preseason coaches' poll, announced Monday morning by the league office. Castleton received three first-place votes and 86 total points, behind only defending conference champion Husson with six first-place votes and 92 points.
Colby-Sawyer received the other first-place vote and finished third in the poll with 83 points, followed by New England College in fourth with 71 points and Maine Maritime with 66 points for fifth place. Lyndon is next in sixth with 45 points, ahead of Thomas in seventh place with 37 points. Maine-Farmington ended up in eighth place with 29 points, just ahead of ninth place Johnson with 28 points, and Green Mountain collected 13 points for 10th place.
The Spartans will field an experienced squad led by five seniors, including First Team All-NAC honoree Amanda Beatty and Second Team All-NAC selection Makayla Farrara. Beatty led Castleton with 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game a season ago, while Farrara contributed 12.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game last year.
Ashlie Fay made an impact in several areas of the court last season, averaging 5.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. Sisters Taylor Raiche and Morgan Raiche May combined for 10.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game as they solidified the low post for the Spartans.
Juniors Ajla Medic and Abbie Lesure also return for Castleton, as do sophomores Katlyn Toomey and Alexis Quenneville. After sitting out last season with an injury, Emilee Bose is close to ready for game action, giving the Spartans another player close to the basket.
The Raiches welcome their younger sister Brooke Raiche to the team, one of four newcomers along with Heather Kervin, Ashleay Wilcox, and Shay Mosher. These first-year players will receive an opportunity for playing time as they gain more confidence and experience.
Castleton gets to work right away with four games in the first seven days of the season, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 15, against Elms College. The Spartans then head to Northampton, Mass., Nov. 18-19 for the Smith College Tyler Tip-Off Classic, taking on Bates and Southern Maine, before the traditional Thanksgiving Week game against Plymouth State.
Elms posted a 17-11 record in 2016-17, including a 13-5 mark within the NECC. The Blazers advanced to the finals of the NECC Tournament before losing to Regis. Senior Mackenzie LaRochelle is the Blazers' top returning scorer, averaging 12.5 points along with 7.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.
These two teams met in the season opener last year in Chicopee, Mass., with Castleton using a 20-0 third quarter to pull away for a 62-28 victory over Elms. Beatty led the Spartans with 17 points, plus she pulled down eight rebounds, while Taylor Raiche grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with nine points.
Tipoff for the season opener against Elms at Glenbrook Gym Wednesday, Nov. 15, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., as it is the first game of a doubleheader with the Castleton men's basketball team.