CASTLETON, Vt. – Coming off its fifth straight 20-win season, the Castleton University women's basketball team opens its pursuit of another North Atlantic Conference title with some familiar faces paired with a few newcomers.
The Spartans finished with 2015-16 season with a 21-6 overall record, including a 15-3 mark within the conference to end up in second place in the regular season standings. Castleton advanced to the title game of the NAC Tournament for the eighth straight time, but lost in the final to Husson, this season's preseason favorite to win the league.
The Spartans return eight players from last season, but will need to replace All-Conference performers Jade Desroches and Bryanna DuPont. Lindsay Sabo is the team's leading returner in scoring after averaging 9.4 points per game, thanks in part to 52 made three-pointers. Amanda Beatty will be looked to for increased production after contributing 5.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in 2015-16.
Makayla Farrara started the final four games of the year and was named to the All-NAC Tournament Team after averaging 11.5 points per game in the two postseason contests. Five freshmen round out the 2016-17 roster, all looking for an opportunity to contribute to the continued success of the Castleton program.
Castleton opens the 2016-17 season at Elms College, followed by the home opener a week later against Plymouth State. After five straight conference games, the Spartans make the short trip to Norwich before the holiday break. After Christmas, the team heads to Nashville, Tenn., for the Music City Classic, facing Ohio Northern, ranked 23rd in the D3hoops.com women's basketball top 25 preseason poll, and Marymount, receiving votes in the same poll.
The Spartans start 2017 at Williams before another stretch of five straight conference games. The final non-conference contest is at home against Middlebury, and then Castleton plays eight straight league games to finish the regular season, looking to put itself in the best possible position in the six-team NAC Tournament.
Elms College finished the 2015-16 season with a 15-13 overall record, including a 13-5 mark within the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC). Picked to finish second in the NECC this season, the Blazers are led by Emily Burr, who led Elms with a team-high 12.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game last season. Alexandra Marques finished second on the team with 7.8 rebounds per game to go along with 6.0 points per game.
Castleton has won four straight games and 19 of the last 20 meetings against Elms, as the two teams played each other twice per season from 2002-03 through 2007-08 when Elms was a member of the North Atlantic Conference. Elms last defeated Castleton on Jan. 12, 2008, 61-45 in Chicopee, Mass. Last season at Glenbrook Gym, the Spartans used a 25-5 second quarter to defeat the Blazers, 71-39, led by Desroches and Sabo with 15 points apiece.