Sister act adds to Amherst's legacy

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Ali Doswell has averaged 20.4 point per game over Amherst's last five contests.
Amherst athletics photo 

By Rob Knox

If Amherst head women’s basketball coach G.P. Gromacki hadn’t been persistent when reaching out to junior twins Ali and Meredith Doswell during the recruiting process, no telling what he would be doing this weekend.

After watching them devour competition in a tournament in Washington, D.C., Gromacki knew he had to get them. There was only one slight problem. His calls went unanswered for a long period of time before he saw the most beautiful site on his office phone following a long day of working a football game: a red light.

“I left messages and never heard anything back,” Gromacki said. “By the fourth phone call, it was getting close to the start of the season and I was getting a little upset they couldn’t call me back. I came back to tidy up my office before leaving and I saw that I had a message on my phone and it was the Doswell sisters. They told me they we’re interested, please give us a call.”

We can’t let the affable twins from Richmond, Va., off the hook yet. They had a good reason for not immediately returning Gromacki’s calls. As Gromacki recounted the story, the Doswell sisters were in the background laughing at the memory.  

Getting to know Amherst

D3hoops team page

Official team page

Hoopsville interview with coach G.P.Gromacki (March 13, 2016)

Doswell provides spark in 2015 tourney (March 9, 2015)

“There were some possible Division I offers that fell through at the last minute,” Ali Doswell said. “We weren’t sure if we wanted to go to school in Virginia and North Carolina, somewhere close to home. Our mom went to Mount Holyoke, so she was familiar with Amherst. We knew Amherst had good academics and a good basketball program. It seemed like the perfect fit for both of us.”

Fast forward three years later and Amherst is preparing to compete in its sixth Final Four in the last nine years. Despite its gaudy 30-1 record and nine-game winning streak, Amherst will be a huge underdog against reigning national champion Thomas More (31-0) on Saturday at the Capital Center in Columbus, Ohio.

One bucket separates Amherst from being undefeated as well. Amherst dropped a 52-51 decision to NESCAC playmate and fellow Final Four participant Tufts (27-3), which will meet Wartburg (23-7) in the other national semifinal. The two winners will play for the national championship on Monday, April 4 at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

“This is a great opportunity for us,” Gromacki said. “This is one of the few times that we're an underdog, but we’re up to the challenge and looking forward to competing at a high level against a great team. We’re excited to be here. It’s a new year and different team, so getting to the Final Four never gets old.”

This trip is special for the Doswell twins as they will be competing in the Final Four for the first time. Usually, trips to this round of the season seem like Amherst’s birthrights, but this is its first visit to the Final Four since the 2012-13 season. The program has plenty of tradition, history and terrific players to draw inspiration and experience from.

The purple-and-white banners serve as motivation each day the current players practice.

So while Thomas More has a 64-game winning streak and tore through its quarter of the bracket like a Category 5 hurricane, Amherst will not be intimidated. Even if the No. 1-ranked Saints are 122-3 over the past four years and 95-1 since Sydney Moss arrived three seasons ago.

“We are excited to perform to our capabilities and give Thomas More a run for their money,” Meredith Doswell said. “The thing we are stressing the most is playing our game. I think it’s a huge advantage for us playing in a strong league and against a tough schedule. Not every team can say that.”

Nor can many teams say they have twins share the floor, though one of the other remaining teams has two sets of twins. Wartburg's roster has the Sommer sisters (Katie and Kristie) and the Murphy sisters (Megan and Miranda).

Amherst's twins are fraternal, so they are usually easy to tell apart by looking at them. However, they did admit that sometimes their father has a tough time telling their voices apart.

Ali and Meredith have enjoyed sharing this ride to the Final Four with each other. "It’s been a unique experience and so much fun,” Ali said. “It’s great being able to play with not only your sister, but your best friend. Playing basketball far away from home wouldn’t be this much fun without her here. It’s very special.”

Ali Doswell earned First Team All-NESCAC honors and Second Team All-Region honors. She is averaging a team-best 14.3 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game, a 42.7 field goal percentage, a 37.5 three-point percentage. She also shoots 83.1 percent from the free throw line. 

During the Purple and White's NCAA postseason run, Doswell netted a collegiate career high 34 points as Amherst downed Rowan, 78-57 in the NCAA Tournament second round in Glassboro, N.J. She has scored 20 or more points in four games this season including a 22-point effort against Tufts in the NESCAC championship title game as Gromacki’s team secured its sixth conference crown with a 50-49 victory over the Jumbos. 

“I know that I get more excited about Ali’s accomplishments than she does,” Meredith Doswell said. “After she scored her 1,000th point, she jogged back down the court like it was nothing and I am smiling at her and giving her a big high five. I am very happy at how successful she has been during her career. It’s been awesome.”

Ali Doswell is one of three Amherst players averaging double figures. Sophomore Hannah Hackley contributes 11.3 points per game while senior Marley Giddens added 11.8 points before her season ended in January. Meredith Doswell chips in 9.2 points per outing and a team-leading 7.2 rebounds per contest. She is coming off of a career-best 24 point performance in last week’s 78-50 win over Rochester in the sectional final. Meredith was 6-for-10 from 3-point distance.

Off the court, the Doswell twins are balancing heavy course loads and navigating challenging majors. Ali is double majoring in physics and psychology while Meredith is majoring in environmental studies and psychology. They each will be interning this summer. Ali will spend time doing sales engineering at Trane in Richmond. Meanwhile, Meredith will be doing research at a nature conservatory in Richmond and Washington, D.C.

Life is great for the Doswells as they welcomed a new niece into their family. They haven’t had an opportunity to meet the 2 and 1/2-month old yet. However, with a win on Saturday, they’ll get a chance to hold their precious bundle of joy in Indianapolis. That would be a perfect treat for the Doswells, who almost missed out on the experience of adding to a legendary program with their gifts.

“They have meant everything to our program,” Gromacki said. “I was talking with someone recently who knows our program and you compare people of the past and these two rank up there with the best people who have ever played here. (Ali and Meredith) have more time to cement their legacy. I know we wouldn’t be where we are right now without them.”