BOSTON – For its 34th season tip-off, the Suffolk women's basketball team takes its talents to UMass Boston Tuesday, Nov. 15 for a 5:30 p.m. game time.
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GUESS WHO'S BACK
The Rams bring back a core group of veterans including three from the starting line-up - seniors Alexandra Clarke and Kelsey Schiebel and junior Alexandra Nagri - that pushed Suffolk to its 22nd consecutive GNAC Tournament appearance a year ago thanks to a 17-11 overall record and 8-3 record against conference competition. Senior Georgia Bourikas and junior Caitlyn Caramello will be looked to continue to contribute, while senior Gena Restiano returns to the hardwood for the blue and gold coming off a year-long injury. Seven rookies also join Suffolk's ranks for Ed Leyden's 23rd season at the helm.
NEW FACES IN NEW PLACES
Heading into the season, Suffolk will have multiple new faces wearing blue-and-gold as seven freshman have been added to the roster; Laina Dowd, Ciarri Formby-Lavertu, Alexis Hackett, Jordan Pettograsso, Talia Riccioli, Katelyn Rourke, and Marissa Stacy.
Suffolk is 17-16 all-time in season openers and 13-9 under head coach Ed Leyden. The Rams have won the first game of the season for five consecutive campaigns, including a 62-48 triumph over UMaime Farmington a year ago.
'BOUT THE BEACONS
UMass Boston, 16-12 a year ago, surprised the field in the Little East Conference (LEC) Tournament, advancing to the finals as the sixth-seed, but feel at top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State, 64-56.
The Beacons, who are led by second-year head coach Kristina Baugh, will be led by returning All-LEC selections from 2015-16, Grace Geary and Ariana Riviera, who collected the league's Rookie of the Year distinction last season. Geary, a first-team selection, returns as the Beacons leading scorer with 16.2 ppg to go along with 4.2 rpg, 3.9 apg and 2.8 spg. Riviera, meanwhile, chipped in 4.3 ppg and 1.6 rpg.
Suffolk and UMass Boston have met 26 times since 1989 and will faceoff for the 16th straight season. The Rams trail the all-time series 9-15, but own the only win when playing the Beacons in the season opener. Suffolk defeated UMass Boston, 53-51, in the first game of the 1996-97 season.
GNAC DIVISIONAL PLAY
The 12-team GNAC women's basketball field has been split into six-team subdivisions for the 2016-17 season. Suffolk is joined in the South Division with Albertus Magnus, Emmanuel, Johnson & Wales, Mount Ida and Saint Joseph (Conn.). The North Division is comprised of Anna Maria, Lasell, Norwich, Rivier, St. Joseph's (Maine) and Simmons.
In the new adopted divisional format opponents from each division will play home-and-homes and play each team in the opposing division once for a 16-game league ledger.
Based on overall conference record, the top four seeds from each division will get a chance to vie for the GNAC Title, as the field of eight will continue in the conference championship. Quarterfinal competition will feature crossover match ups between the two divisions with each top seed hosting the opposite divisions fourth seed and the No. 2 seeds hosting the other division's No. 3 seeds. If two teams that advance to the GNAC Championship own the same seed, the winner of the regular-season head-to-head matchup will determine the championship host site.
1. St. Jopseh's (Maine)
5. Anna Maria
1. Johnson & Wales
4. Albertus Magnus
5. Mount Ida
6. St. Joseph (Conn.)
PACING THE SIDELINES
Ed Leyden enters his 23rd season as the Rams' head coach. During his tenure, he has coached nine of the 13 members of Suffolk's 1,000-point club and led the Rams to eight ECAC appearances, including a semifinal run last season. In 23 total seasons as a collegiate head coach Leyden has amassed 357 career victories including a 346-240 record at Suffolk (.596).
A trio of seniors have been elected to serve as Suffolk's captains for the 2016-17 campaign as seniors Georgia Bourikas, Alexandra Clarke and Kelsey Schiebel assume the leadership responsibility in their final runs as Rams.
RAMS ROSTER BREAKDOWN
Suffolk's 15-player roster is comprised of four seniors, two juniors, two sophomores and seven freshmen.
Position wise, the Rams feature nine guards, two swing players and two forwards.
The 2016-17 Rams represent five states along the East Coast. Eight players are Massachusetts natives and four come from the Bay State's neighbor to the north, New Hampshire. Connecticut, Maine and North Carolina are also represented.
Suffolk's entire six-game November slate will be played on the road, marking the first time since 2002-03 that the Rams played the entire first month of action as the away team. The six-contest stretch away from home to open the 2016-17 campaign marks the longest season-opening road trip since 1999-00, when the blue-and-gold played seven straight contests on the road.
SUFFOLK FREE RADIO
Suffolk Athletics has teamed up with Suffolk Free Radio to bring Ram Nation live broadcast events this year including multiple home and away women's basketball contests.
The pre-game shows are set to launch 15 minutes prior to tip-off of all contests and fans can follow along at mixlr.com/suffolkfreeradio/.
Suffolk travels across the Boston Common over the weekend for the Emerson Tip-Off Tournament. The Rams will first face Wesleyan (Conn.) Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m., with the victor advancing to the finals Sunday, Nov. 20 versus the winner of the hosts Emerson and fellow GNAC member Simmons.