Dartmouth women’s basketball, new coach Shibles eye return to former glory

  • Head coach Adrienne Shibles introduces Josie Harper, a former women’s lacrosse coach and the first female athletic director in the Ivy League, to her team during a women’s basketball practice at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America photographs — Alex Driehaus

  • Jimena Abejon dribbles the ball around Isabella DiGiovanni while they run a drill during a women’s basketball practice at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Karina Mitchell guards Rosie Jennings as she looks for a pass during a women’s basketball practice at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Head coach Adrienne Shibles cheers on her players during a women’s basketball practice at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/9/2021 4:49:59 PM
Modified: 11/9/2021 5:20:41 PM

HANOVER — The last time Dartmouth made the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, the current seniors were in third grade.

The Big Green had a brief Ivy League dynasty more than a decade ago, winning four titles in five years between 2005 and 2009. But since then, Dartmouth has had just one winning season and has finished no higher than fourth in the conference.

It’s now up to new head coach Adrienne Shibles to turn things back around. Shibles built a Division III powerhouse at Bowdoin College in Maine, where she had a winning percentage north of .800 over 13 years and reached the national championship game in 2018 and 2019. In Hanover, she will start over with a young roster that includes just two seniors and did not play at all last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now I’m in a situation where we have a young team and we’re building a program, versus having an established culture with a bunch of All-Americans (at Bowdoin),” Shibles said. “We’re really focusing in on the little pieces surrounding our culture and teaching the women the skill sets they need to be successful on the court.”

With the Ivy League canceling all athletic competition for the 2020-21 academic year, just seven of the Big Green’s 15 players have played in a college game.

Senior guard Katie Douglas, who averaged 7.5 points per game and shot 36.8 percent from three-point range in 2019-20, is Big Green’s lone returning starter.

Douglas and junior guard Karina Mitchell will be the Big Green’s co-captains. Mitchell played less than five minutes per game as a freshman but is primed for a much larger role this season.

“I’m becoming more of a leader,” Mitchell said. “I’ve raised my level of training. I feel like my freshman year, I was getting into the groove of things and now, as a junior, I need to show that I’m dominant on the court. I know my teammates look up to me and I’m striving to set a good example for them.”

Dartmouth’s other senior is guard Jimena Abejon, a Spaniard who made just one start over her first two seasons. Abejon returned to Spain for nine months during COVID-19, then suffered a concussion in practice this fall, but should be ready to go for Tuesday’s opener against Rhode Island at Leede Arena.

Abejon said she feels the team is more ambitious this year with the new coaching staff, which includes assistants Megan Phelps, Sarah Assante and Meredith Mesaris. Phelps made the journey to Hanover from Bowdoin along with Shibles.

“The style of play is different (under the new staff),” Abejon said. “The coaches are trying to help us build confidence, and everyone is really excited. There’s a lot of empowerment from the coaches to us.”

Douglas will be the Big Green’s first option in the backcourt, though Dartmouth did add Mekkena Boyd, a sophomore transfer from Penn State.

In the front court, the new faces will have to step up. Sophomore forward Rosie Jennings, an Australia native, and freshman forward Isabella DiGiovanni have impressed Shibles in practice and intrasquad scrimmages.

Shibles said she’s been emphasizing defense in preseason practices as the players learn her scheme. The Big Green struggled on both ends of the floor two years ago, scoring the fewest points per game in the Ivy League while allowing the second-most.

With such limited experience even compared to most of their conference opponents, signs point to a rebuilding year for Dartmouth, which will play eight of its 13 non-conference games away from home.

“The non-conference schedule will really challenge us and prepare us for Ivy League play,” Shibles said. “It will be challenging for this young team, but I see challenge as an opportunity, and it will prepare us to go up against these teams who had seasons last year. We will be tested right away.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.




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