College Basketball: Good times are here for UNH, Dartmouth womenBy MICHAEL ABELSON
Special to the Union Leader
December 06. 2017 12:22AM
HANOVER — It has never been this good for women’s college basketball in the Granite State.
The Dartmouth Big Green are off to their best start in at least 27 years. The University of New Hampshire Wildcats are coming off the program’s first America East regular-season title and have nearly the entire roster back this year.
Dartmouth beat UNH 57-49 on Tuesday, coming back from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter to earn the victory. They were led by a pair of juniors: point guard Cy Lippold and forward Isalys Quinones.
Quinones seemed to do it all for the Big Green. She led the team with 16 points and seven rebounds against the Wildcats. Quinones is third on the team with 11 points a game and also averages 6.6 boards a night.
Combined with Lippold, who leads the team in scoring, steals, assists, and 3-point field goal percentage, the Big Green are off to a 6-1 start. They won only eight games last season. For fourth-year head coach Belle Koclanes, the success is the byproduct of the team’s core growing under the system.
“Putting a team and a program together is a process,” Koclanes said after the UNH game. “The change you’re seeing now is a veteran team. We’ve had our seniors and our juniors with us. They’re in our culture for three years plus. That’s a major part of the change. We have senior leadership, peer-to-peer leadership. They help lead the team and help take care of the things that need to be taken care of so we can come in and coach victories.”
Lippold has been the catalyst for the Green this season. The 5-foot-, 2-inch guard from East Stroudsburg, Pa., has led the team in scoring four times this season. She averages 15 points, 2.4 steals and 4.4 assists a night. She is the shortest player on the roster but she runs the offense on the floor and is a pest for opponents on defense.
“Cy is our little spunky point guard,” Quinones said. “She gets in those holes and feeds you the ball. It’s awesome to have a scoring point guard like her. Feeding off her energy, her speed, it’s a great way for us to push the ball and get good movement on offense.”
UNH, meanwhile, came into the season with high expectations and a roster to turn those expectations into reality. The preseason No. 1 in America East, the Wildcats sit 6-3 this season.
The Wildcats’ veteran core of seven seniors is being leaned on as they make a run at the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid.
Led by Brittni Lai, Olivia Healy, Kat Fogarty and reigning America East player of the year Carlie Pogue, the Wildcats have the talent, although the depth isn’t there this season. Against Dartmouth, Healy, Lai, and Fogarty all played 35 minutes or more.
“We don’t have much of a bench this year,” UNH coach Maureen Magarity said. “We don’t have much post rotation so our posts have to show up. That doesn’t just mean scoring points. Defensively we’ve got to pick it up.”
Lai had eight points and six assists against Dartmouth and said that the team’s goals don’t change even with the depth issues or early losses.
“Last year we were preseason No. 6 and worked our butts off through preseason and non-conference play,” Lai said. “We don’t think about being No. 1. We’re still working our butts off. We’re going to get better.”