Babson women deserve a closer look

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Babson senior Giovanna Pickering leads the NEWMAC in scoring (17.2 points per game) and makes pretty sweet music off the court, too.
Babson athletics photo 


Babson College senior Taylor Russell considers last year’s loss to WPI in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament final a disappointment, but she knew the one-point defeat was going to be the motivation for this season.

“Losing to WPI was a major setback and we were upset,” said Russell, who is averaging 13 points per game this season. “It definitely lit a fire under us.”
That win over Babson was rather significant. It denied the Beavers another trip to the NCAA tournament and what would have been their seventh NEWMAC crown in eight seasons.

Yet, their loss to the Engineers seems to be a distant memory as the Beavers have enjoyed another successful campaign thus far, winning 15 of 18 contests, including nine consecutive league matchups. Two of the three losses came to top-ranked Tufts and second-ranked Amherst. And one of those league wins came on the road against WPI earlier this month as Babson defeated the defending tournament champions by a score of 65-47.

Coach Judy Blinstrub, who is four wins away from earning her 600th victory, feels pretty confident in her unit - she knows the season is far from over, but believes Babson’s success depends on her seniors and underclassmen.

“As far as the NEWMAC play goes, I feel pretty good,” she said. “We had a good game against WPI and I think we have been playing well against solid NEWMAC opponents, too.

“Obviously, we have a big stretch in front us, so I think we’re trying to fine-tune everything. We have a few young players that are coming along, so hopefully they will be able to handle the final stretch…also, our seniors have had a great year, but they will need to maintain (that success) to help us be successful (in the coming weeks).”

Russell is just one of the four senior Blinstrub mentioned. The Braintree, Massachusetts’s native has had an impressive season thus far, averaging a career-best 13 points per game.

Senior Giovanna Pickering has also been a big part of the Beavers’ success– she is averaging 17.2 points per game and is third on the team with 101 rebounds. Classmate Jennifer Narlee leads everyone in the NEWMAC with 185 caroms. Incidentally Pickering, who has been an intern at Sony Music, makes pretty sweet music off the court too. 

Babson has leaned heavily on its seniors this season, especially in the first two months. Babson commenced its 2016-17 campaign with seven road contests, including a pair of games at the Daytona Beach Shootout against Emory and Henry and Mount St. Mary. The Beavers' game against the Wasps needed an extra session, along with free throws down the stretch from Pickering, Narlee and Russell.

“I was just proud of the way the team came to play and how the team came together,” said Pickering of her team’s 61-59 overtime win against Emory and Henry, “we played well as a unit.”

Babson followed those two wins by capturing seven of their next nine contests – their two defeats during the nine-game stretch came against top-ranked Tufts and Mass-Dartmouth. The Beavers did not dwell on either setback, responding with a win in their next outing.  

While Babson remains ‘the team to beat’ in the NEWMAC, they must adhere to Blinstrub’s guidance over the final few weeks, especially if they want to hoist another conference crown on their home court and extend the season beyond the end of February.

The tenured coach believes the unit must come together during this final stretch – that will be the key to continuing their current success.

“I think as a team we need to come together right now because there is only so many weeks left in the season and I think this is (the point) of the season where you start hitting that wall because it is deep in the season,” said Blinstrub.

“We have to rally around getting together and knowing this stretch is really important, and that we can pull it off by really start to improve across the board. We can’t just be happy with what we have, but be better than what we were a week ago.”

For a team that entered the season with multiple questions – can they rebound from last season’s tournament setback? Can the first-years learn the program’s system quickly? – Babson has proven once again that it doesn’t matter who is on the court (or bench), they will be tough to beat.

“We are focused on the short-term,” said Pickering.

Added Russell, “We just know we need to take it game-by-game.”

The ‘game-by-game’ focus will be key for the Beavers over the next few weeks – and yes, another matchup against WPI will be one to circle or attend (if you live close by to Babson Park), but for now, the focus remains on today’s practice followed by a game on Wednesday against MIT. 

Matt Noonan

Matt Noonan is the head editor and founder of, a New England Division III college sports blog that covers basketball, football and lacrosse. Noonan's work has been featured on,, and, and has appeared in the Boston Globe, along with other digital and print outlets. No stranger to Division III, Noonan spent time as an Athletics Communications Assistant and Sports Information Assistant at MIT, Wentworth Institute of Technology and Wheaton College, and was recently an Associate Producer at Lax Sports Network where he oversaw a trio of weekly shows, while assisting producers, on-air talent, production assistants and directors with daily programming. Noonan graduated from Wheaton College in May 2010 -- Go Lyons! -- and currently resides in Somerville, Massachusetts.