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Huskies find off-court camaraderie

Photo by Rafael Suanes.

Northeastern University women’s basketball players go bowling and cook team meals together. Over the past summer, each athlete read a book on leadership called “LEAD…For God’s Sake!”

The strong bond formed between players off the court may lead to wins on the court, says head coach Daynia La-Force Mann, who praises her club for developing strong “team chemistry and work ethic through team-bonding activities.”

The red and black will have its first chance to show off its newfound team spirit on Friday against Eastern Michigan at 1 p.m. at Solomon Court.

The Huskies, who finished in 11th place in the Colonial Athletic Association conference last season, hope to improve by grabbing more defensive rebounds. Last season, the team was outrebounded by an average of 7.5 boards per game.

“We’re definitely going to have to box out and limit second chance points,” says team captain Jamie Conroy, a 5-foot-7-inch guard who averaged 10 points, 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game last season. “Our defense has been very good in practice.”

The club’s four freshmen figure to make an immediate impact on both sides of the ball, La-Force Mann says.

She singled out Amencie Mercer, a 5-foot-7-inch guard from Pierrefonds, Quebec, for her defensive play and slick passing skills. This year, the freshman was selected as a first team All-Star at a Canadian National Tournament.

“She gives us a level of depth at guard that we didn’t have last year,” La-Force Mann says. “Playing Amencie will make Jamie more productive with her minutes.”

The club’s non-conference schedule poses a daunting challenge. On Nov. 17, the Huskies will travel to Lexington, Ky., to play the No. 18 Kentucky Wildcats.

The prospect of facing one of the best teams in the nation doesn’t faze La-Force Mann. “We think of these games as learning tools to find out what we need to do to play at that next level,” she explains. “We can only control how we play — how we box out, share the basketball and run our offense.”

Conroy hopes to spot a couple of Northeastern fans in the rabid Wildcat crowd. “Hopefully we’ll have some support and can keep Kentucky fans quiet by playing well,” she says.

Her squad, she notes emphatically, has the talent to make the NCAA Tournament. “I feel confident that we can go all the way,” Conroy says. “I can’t wait to start playing and find out how far our hard work can take us.”

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