Worcester, Mass. - The official start of the winter season gets underway this weekend as both the men’s and women’s basketball teams open up their seasons with area tournaments on Friday and Saturday.
Led by veteran coaches who have had tremendous amounts of success on the Clark sidelines, both teams will be tested early against strong non-conference opponents - and in the case of Pat Glispin’s women’s squad – conference foes as well.
After one of their best seasons in the last decade, women’s basketball returns a bevy of key contributors including a pair of all-conference performers in juniors Ashleigh Condon (Hull, Mass.) and Emily Reilly (Marlboro, Mass.).
Condon became Clark’s first-team selection since 2008-09 after a sophomore campaign that saw her terrorize opposing defenses, finishing fifth in the league in scoring (13.1) and second in assists (4.0). She was nearly automatic at the free throw line, connecting on a league-best 86.2 percent of her attempts.
Reilly (14.3), meanwhile, has been the model of consistency since arriving on campus. She has started every game and has been in double figures in 45 of 53 games, including 25 of 27 in 2011-12. An excellent rebounder as well, Reilly finished second on the team last season (5.1) and recorded her first career double-double in a win over MIT in January.
Megan Grondin (Cumberland, Maine) joins Condon and Reilly as returning double figure scorer (12.3) after a sophomore season that saw her shoot 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from the charity stripe.
Kelsey Giedymin (Shrewsbury, Mass.) the lone senior on the team had the best season of her career a year ago, averaging 7.6 points and 5.1 rebounds while becoming a feared three-point shooter from behind the arc. She finished last season as the league’s third-best from three-point land (36.7) and also finished second team in rebounding.
The Cougars open up 2012-13 in the 32nd annual Worcester City Tip-Off Tournament on Friday, November 16 against Worcester State. It marks for the first time since 2008-09 that the Cougars – who have won the tournament a record 19 times – will play in the four-team event.
After a road contest with Simmons on Tuesday, November 20, the Cougars jump right into league play with their home opener against Springfield College on Wednesday, November 28.
Paul Phillips, meanwhile, returns one of the program’s all-time greats in Brian Vayda (Sturbridge, Mass.) after he missed the final 20 games of his senior campaign with an injury. When healthy, Vayda is a versatile forward who can score with crafty moves inside, rebound effectively and score from behind the arc. Already with more than 1,300 points and nearly 700 rebounds in his career, Vayda is a legitimate player of the year candidate.
With Vayda on the shelf last year, however, several other stepped up to carry the load. D.J. Bailey (Palmer, Mass.) emerged as the best of the bunch, collecting second-team all-conference honors after a career year that saw him score 11.3 points per game and finish second in the league in blocked shots (2.0). An efficient scorer, Bailey finished sixth in the conference in field goal percentage (52.8) and had 15 games where he shot 50 percent or better from the floor including a perfect 10-for-10 in a win over Babson.
Travis Curley (Trumbull, Conn.) also became one of the Cougars’ most reliable scorers in 2011-12, leading the team in scoring (12.2) and ending the season as the third-best three-point shooter (44.2) in the conference. He had five games of 20 points or more, including a 28-point explosion in the win over Coast Guard.
After opening up Bowdoin College in the opening round of the Eastern Connecticut State Tip-Off Tournament on Friday and then playing either Western New England or the host Warriors on Saturday, the Cougars will visit Anna Maria on Tuesday, November 20 before returning home on Thursday, November 29 for their home opener against Worcester State.