by Kevin McCaskill Jr.
11/8/22 * 1:05 PM
(AMHERST, MA) - The UMass Women’s Basketball team opened their season on Monday night against Saint Peter’s. Mike Leflar has replaced Tory Verdi as the Head Coach this season. Verdi accepted the HC job at Pittsburgh earlier this year. After Verdi left, there were a flurry of transfers leaving only three players remaining from last season: Stefanie Kulesza, Kristin Williams and Lilly Ferguson. The roster has been built with incoming Freshmen and transfers.
Monday night was the first official game for the new coaching staff and roster; they were ready for the moment.
Each team got off to a slow start with both squads missing shots at the basket and committing turnovers.
Kulesza made an open three from the top of key to get the Minutewomen on the board first.
Saint Peter’s Guard Rachel Kuhl made two FTs to tighten the game. The Minutewomen went on a 10-2 run over the next 3 minutes. Ferguson and Williams were aggressive shooting the ball. In the postgame press conference, Leflar said “Everyone has a green light”. Newcomer Tori Hyduke also contributed a 3 in that scoring run.
Saint Peter’s offense picked up but the Minutewomen kept them at bay.
In the second quarter, each team picked up their defensive intensity. All shots and rebounds were contested. Neither team scored over a 5 minute timespan in the quarter.
The Minutewomen led at halftime 26-17.
In the second half, Saint Peter’s tried to keep it close but UMass was too much. The combination of Williams and Kulesza propelled the Minutewomen past Saint Peter’s 56-44.
Williams scored a career-high 19 points. Kulesza had double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds, both career highs.
Jada Williams led Saint Peter’s with 13 points.
After the game, Williams said,
“We [only] had three of us in the postseason. We worked every single day and [Coach Leflar] brought in new people. [He] had expectations of us to bring [them] in…and create the culture that he wanted and that we wanted”.
The Minutewomen’s next game is on Thursday 11/9, on the road @ Northeastern. The game tips off @ 7 PM.