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The women’s college basketball season kicks off this week, and there are plenty of Central Mass. stars to watch shine on area teams. We take a look at a few to keep an eye on this year.
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Julitza Delgado, Anna Maria (Southbridge)
Delgado, who started collegiately at UConn Avery Point, was a welcome addition to the AmCats roster in 2021-22.
The 5-foot-5 guard started 23 of 24 games and averaged 4.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
Delgado is the captain of Anna Maria this season.
“Juli is the glue that holds us together,” said AMC coach Melissa Paulhus. “She has an innate way of making everyone on the court better. The scorecard doesn’t always effectively show her contributions. She is the player who does all the little things it takes to be successful.”
Delgado, who was a SWCL star at Southbridge, earned his associate’s degree at UConn Avery Point, then transferred to Becker, but never played for the Hawks. COVID ended the 2020-21 season and Becker closed in the spring of 2021. He came to Anna Maria last year and earned his bachelor’s degree.
Delgado scored in double figures in each of AMC’s last three games from 2021-22.
“She is a great leader,” Paulhus said. “She’s always working to make sure the team is ready, whether it’s practice or a game. She sacrifices her own stats for the benefit of the team. A true team player, that’s Juli, and we’re lucky to have her.”
Julia Hamel, Worcester State (Quabbin Regional/Hubbardston)
Hamel was a standout scorer and rebounder, and a star for Mid-Wach C at Quabbin. As a freshman at Worcester State last season, he averaged just 6.3 minutes in 16 games, but Lancers coach Karen Tessmer sees more frontcourt minutes this season for the 5-foot-9 Hamel.
“He had to work hard to make the transition to the college game,” Tessmer said, “and this year he’s loosened up a little bit. He gained more confidence, understands the system better and had a good training offseason. I think he will get more playing time this year and make contributions.”
Hamel played a season-high 17 minutes and had a season-high 6 points and 8 rebounds in a win over Fitchburg State.
The Lancers went 12-14 last season and reached the semifinals of the MASCAC Tournament.
The loss of Gigi Lemay from Grafton, who suffered a career-ending ankle injury, will also mean more opportunities for Hamel.
“Julia is a good passer and has good court sense,” Tessmer said. “She is intelligent and a great student of the game. She picks things up quickly. We need her and we are excited for her to have a great year as a sophomore.”
Shannon Reno, WPI (Millbury)
In high school, Reno starred as his father, coach Steve Reno, and led the Woolies on an incredible four-year stretch during which they went 82-8.
Reno, a 5-foot-5 point guard, was a two-time Super Team T&G selection. As a senior, he helped Millbury to a 21-3 record and a Division 3 state semifinal appearance.
“As the daughter of an outstanding coach,” said WPI coach Cherise Galasso, “she understands the game and thinks like a coach, which makes her a valuable asset at the point guard position.”
Last season at WPI, Reno averaged just 4.2 minutes in nine games while playing on a deep, talented and veteran roster. The Engineers finished 19-5 and advanced to the semifinals of the NEWMAC Tournament.
Galasso hopes to see a larger role for Reno this year.
“She is starting to emerge,” Galasso said. “She’s motivated and she’s worked really hard, and that really makes the difference. She has earned the respect of her peers.
“In high school,” Galasso said, “she was a shredder. She never took a playoff. Coming from a championship program, that’s also a big factor. She knows what it takes for her to win.”
Cam Richey, Clark (Whitinsville Christian/Upton)
Richey started all 22 games he played last season and averaged 3.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals.
Clark’s first-year coach, Bridgette Reyes, expects those stats to increase this year.
“It will be more than that,” said Reyes, who succeeds the legendary Pat Glispin.
Glispin retired in May after managing the Cougars for 38 seasons. Reyes spent the last five years at Caltech and led the program to its winningest two seasons in its history.
At Clark, Reyes’ first roster includes a newcomer and the rest of those who returned from last year’s eight-win team.
“We’re trying to build a great base with this team,” said Reyes, who was encouraged by her team’s performance in a recent game.
Richey, who was a DVC star at Whitinsville Christian, is one of the more experienced players on Clark’s roster and will be in the starting lineup this year.
“She is one of our hardest workers,” Reyes said. “She’s a great leader and we can trust her to do anything, and anything that needs to be done with the team, she leads the way, taking extra shots after practice, putting in extra work in the weight room. She is a great ambassador for our program and for the university.”
Alyvia Smith, Nichols (Fitchburg)
Bison coach Dan Nagle hopes the 5-foot-7 Smith will be a perfect fit for the team’s fast-paced offense and pressing defense.
“She’s got long arms and she’s really athletic,” Nagle said, “and she’s played really well so far. I liked her in high school, but coming into our system, I think she’s going to maximize all the things that she does really well.”
Smith, who was a T&G Division 2 All-Star last year, is a projected starter for the Bison.
Nichols won 10 games last year and ranked fourth nationally in steals. Smith should further strengthen Bison’s defense.
“She’s a good shooter,” Nagle said, “but defensively I think she’s going to be very, very impactful for us.”
Smith is one of eight freshmen on Nichols’ 2022-23 roster.
“We didn’t have a lot of depth last year, which kept us from winning a few more games,” Nagle said. “This year, we have a bigger roster, and when you push, the more bodies the better, and we’re also more talented on paper.”
Contact Jennifer Toland at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @JenTolandTG.