March 3, 2014

Women's hoops returns to postseason with ECAC berth

The Brandeis University women's basketball team has qualified for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) New England Division III Tournament. It will be the Judges' first time participating in the playoffs since the 2008-2009 squad that went to the NCAA Elite 8.

Brandeis earned the No. 8 seed in the tournament, and will travel to top-seeded Emmanuel College on Wednesday for a 7:00 p.m. tipoff.

The Judges wrapped up the regular season with a 13-12 overall record. They were 7-7 in University Athletic Association play, good for fourth overall. The Judges are led by head coach Carol Simon, who is in her 27th year at the helm. Assistant coach Scott Foulis is in his seventh year at Brandeis. Emmanuel finished 19-7 overall, including a perfect 11-0 in the Great Northeast Atlantic Conference (GNAC). The Saints were the top seed in the GNAC Tournament, but were upset by eighth-seeded Norwich University in the quarterfinals last Tuesday. EC is coached by Andy Yosinoff, who is in his 36 season at the helm.

The Judges played at Emmanuel earlier this season. Brandeis knocked off the Saints, who were #25 in the country at the time, 80-72, on November 26, 2013. It was Brandeis' first win over Emmanuel since 2010, and its first in Boston since 2007. Judge sophomore Niki Laskaris (Swampscott, Mass./Swampscott) had a game-high 18 points in just 20 minutes of action, going 6-for-8 from the field. Seniors Kasey Dean (Southbury, Conn./Pomperaug) and Angela Miller (Sicklerville, N.J./Timber Creek) added 17 and 14 points, respectively. Emmanuel juniors Lena Negri (Arlington, Va./Yorktown) and Vanessa Bramante (Stoneham, Mass./Stoneham) finished with 17 points apiece.

Dean, Brandeis' captain, averaged 9.9 points and 2.8 assists per game, both team-highs. Senior Nicolina Vitale (Clinton Township, Mich./Chippewa Valley) averaged 9.8 points and team-bests 5.4 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per contest. Vitale finished fifth in the UAA in blocks, while classmate Janelle Rodriguez (Peabody, Mass./Peabody Veterans) was fourth in the conference in steals. Laskaris and rookie Maria Jackson (Rochester, N.Y./Hilton) each averaged 8.6 points per game.

The Saints were led by Negri, who averaged 13.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Sophomore Sarah Higgins joined her in double figures with 10.5 ppg, while junior Jennifer Bujnowski averaged 9.7. Junior Britni Mikulanecz led the team with 4.1 assists per game.

This will be the 25th all-time meeting between the two squads, with Emmanuel owning a 15-9 edge in the series. Brandeis has met the Saints once before in the postseason, with EC earning a second-round win in the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

Other first-round matchups in the ECAC Tournament include No. 2 seed Endicott College (20-7) hosting No. 7 Wellesley College (16-9), No. 3 Wheaton College (20-7) hosting No. 6 Framingham State University (17-11) and No. 4 Smith College (16-11) hosting No. 5 Rivier College (20-7). The semifinals and finals will be hosted by the highest remaining seed on Saturday and Sunday.