Catching Up With Laura Pierce (Fitchburg State Women’s Basketball)

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Laura Pierce, who competed and coached at Wheaton College, was recently named the new women’s basketball coach at Fitchburg State University. (PHOTO COURTESY: Fitchburg State Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports 

Laura Pierce was ready for that next step in her coaching journey.

She had gained valuable experience at both Wesleyan University and Wheaton College as an assistant for both women’s basketball programs but appeared eager – and ready – to become a head coach.

And that eagerness – and readiness, too – paid off as she was recently named the new women’s basketball coach at Fitchburg State University.

“I am excited to get to work with the young women to create a culture in which our program makes Fitchburg State proud on the court, in the classroom, and in the community,” said Pierce in the press release announcing her hiring.

Pierce inherits a Falcons squad that finished 9-17 a year ago, including 2-10 against Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) foes.

The Falcons did qualify for the MASCAC Tournament last winter but saw their bid for a conference crown conclude in the quarterfinals against Bridgewater State University.

Coaching in the MASCAC is something Pierce is very excited about – she described the conference as “really competitive,” while also noting that “you have to bring your best effort every (single) evening.”

Said Pierce, “My hope is that we enter the gym every day with the mindset of effort, focus, and attitude because it will help us be successful, both this upcoming season and in the future.”

Prior to becoming an assistant for both the Cardinals and Lyons, Pierce enjoyed an impressive career at Wheaton, tallying 622 points, 253 rebounds, 424 assists, and 68 steals in 100 games played. Pierce, who was a three-year captain, also attended “So You Want to be a Coach” Program at the Women’s Final Four in Tampa, Florida in April of 2015 before graduating from Wheaton one month later.

Noontime Sports recently spoke with Pierce about her excitement for leading her own program, but also what she learned as both a student-athlete and assistant from Coach Melissa Hodgdon.

What excites you about coaching your own program?

Being able to teach the game I love while shaping these young women’s lives.

Coaching is about so much more than the X’s & O’s (on a chalkboard). It’s about building relationships and mentoring (your players) to become the best they can be, both on and off the court. I have had many coaches and mentors along the way that I have played for and coached with, and they have all have shaped me into the coach and person I am today.

I think the exciting thing about coaching your own program is having a vision and being able to shape that vision throughout the season. It’s all about the process and we’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s such an exciting time for the Fitchburg State women’s basketball program.

Do you feel your previous stops as an assistant at Wesleyan and Wheaton have prepared you for a successful first season with Fitchburg State?

Absolutely. Kate Mullen, who is the is the head coach of the Wesleyan women’s basketball team, took a chance on me – she hired me right after I graduated college (in May of 2015) and I will be forever grateful to her for providing me with my first collegiate coaching role.

Coach Mullen gave me the opportunity to coach and prepare to play against teams in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which is one of the most competitive Division III women’s basketball conferences in the country. 

I am really fortunate that both Coach Mullen and Melissa Hodgdon gave me an opportunity to learn and grow as a young coach (these past few years). I consider them not just mentors, but great friends, as well.

Tell me about your experience learning and playing for Melissa Hodgdon. How did she help mold you into the current coach you are today? 

I honestly had never heard of Wheaton until Coach Hodgdon began recruiting me. But attending Wheaton and playing for her was the best decision I ever made.

Coach Hodgdon challenged me every day to become the best basketball player I could be so I could reach my highest potential on the court with hopes of leading the Lyons to a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championship.

Her biggest impact though is she genuinely cares about each and every one of her players.

I missed my entire sophomore year with a knee injury, but that didn’t stop Coach Hodgdon from including me in team activities. She made sure I was included and kept me engaged throughout the entire season while allowing me to see the game from her perspective. And once my sophomore year concluded at Wheaton, I knew I wanted to become a collegiate basketball coach when I graduated, so I began gaining experience as an intern at the Duke University women’s basketball camp, along with several local camps, too, before I returned to campus for my senior year.

A few years after my final season with the Lyons, I returned to campus after completing my graduate assistantship program at Wesleyan – I knew (deep down that) I wanted to return to Wheaton and assist Coach Hodgdon, who established a program that meant so much to me, both as a student-athlete and assistant coach.

Being able to work (and learn) from Coach Hodgdon as an assistant was an amazing experience. She challenged me to become the best coach while giving me responsibilities that prepared me for my next step in my coaching journey.

Finally, what goals and objectives do you have for the team heading into the upcoming season?

We have a great group of young women returning this year as well as a couple of incoming first-year student-athletes that are excited to get to work. We’re going to focus on getting better every day, whether that be in the classroom, weight room, film room or on the court.

We are also going to have this mindset of getting better (every single day). But our number one goal is always going to be to represent the Fitchburg State community with class and pride.


Stay connected with our New England basketball coverage on Twitter by following @Noontime_Hoops

Mass. College Hoops: Babson, Tufts Capture Respective Conference Crowns

By Matt Noonan 

On Sunday afternoon, the Babson College and Tufts University women’s basketball teams each captured their respective conference crowns, while earning automatic-bids to the upcoming NCAA Division III Tournament that commences later this week.

The Beavers defeated Wheaton College in Springfield by a score of 77-51, while the Jumbos topped Bowdoin College at home by a score of 68-52.

Babson Captures Sixth NEWMAC Crown in Seven Seasons: Linnett Graber stuffed the stat sheet with seven points, nine rebounds, five assists and one steal, while Taylor Russell poured in a game-and-team-high 16 points as the Beavers overcame a regular season setback to the Lyons.

Babson led Wheaton, 42-18, at the break before tacking on 35 points during the second stanza. The Lyons rallied by netting 33 points in the second half, including nine points from Abbie Brickley and eight points from Kiley Shoemaker. Laura Pierce netted a team-high 12 points for the Blue and White, while Shoemaker pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.

The Beavers, who entered the tournament as the fourth seed, earned a trip to the finals by defeating WPI and host Springfield in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, respectively. Wheaton’s road to the championship began with a quarterfinal victory over Emerson College before they defeated U.S. Coast Guard Academy yesterday in the semifinal.

Jennifer Narlee added 10 points for the Green and White, while Erin Young connected on three of seven shots from beyond the arc.

Tufts wins Second-Straight NESCAC crown: Four Jumbos registered double-digits, including 16 points from Emma Roberson as Tufts defended its tournament crown from one year ago.

Tufts led Bowdoin, 28-22, at the break before netting 40 points in the second half to secure their 26th win of the season.

Roberson scored 11 of her 16 points during the final 20 minutes, while Michela North, Hayley Kanner and Josie Lee netted 14, 12 and 12 points, respectively. Kelsey Morehead came off the bench and poured in seven points, while Melissa Baptista – also came off the bench – added two points, one rebound and one block.

Mass. College Hoops: Wheaton Picks Up Fourth Straight Win, Tops Colorado College, 84-68

By NoontimeSports.com

The Wheaton College women’s basketball team extended their current winning streak to four games, defeating Colorado College in Emerson Gymnasium this evening. Here is the release, courtesy of the Wheaton College Sports Information Department:

NORTON, Mass. – Fueled by a career-high 33 points from senior forward Abbie Brickley (Sandy, Utah/Skyline), the Wheaton College women’s basketball team extended its winning streak to four-straight games with an 84-68 non-conference triumph over Colorado College on Friday night inside Emerson Gymnasium.

Brickley poured in her career-high 33 points on 14-for-19 shooting, which included a 5-for-6 performance at the free throw line, and also hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds to pace the Lyons. Brickley’s 33 points against the Tigers tonight ranks third all-time in a single game in program history. Terri Salinetti ’92 holds the school record with 35 points against Wesleyan on January 25, 1992, while current volunteer assistant coach Bri Smith ’09 ranks second with 34 points, which occurred on December 7, 2005 versus Salem State.

Wheaton junior forward Kiley Shoemaker (Fayetteville, N.Y./Fayetteville-Manlius) posted 17 points, eight rebounds, a career-high six blocks, two assists and one steal. Senior guard Laura Pierce (Hampstead, N.H./Pinkerton Academy) collected four points, a game-high eight assists, three points and one steal, while classmate Kirsten Ferrari (Lynn, Mass./Saint Mary’s) registered six points, five rebounds, four assists and two swipes.

Colorado College had three student-athletes in double-figures highlight by junior forward Danielle Davis (Boxford, Mass.) who notched a team-high 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting, four rebounds, three assists and one steal. First-year guard Malia Shappell (Lakewood, Colo.) contributed 14 points, five boards, and a pair of blocks, assists and steals, while sophomore forward Korbyn Ukasick (Windsor, Colo.) chipped in with 11 points and three rebounds.

The Lyons shot 48.5-percent (32-for-66) from the field, 31.3-percent (5-for-16) from beyond the arc, 78.9-percent (15-for-19) at the free throw line, assisted on 22 made baskets and won the rebounding matchup 47-33. Wheaton also held a 52-32 differential in points in the paint and a 19-14 margin in bench points. Colorado College tallied a slight 19-17 edge in points off of turnovers.

Tied 12-12 at the 15:48 mark of the contest, Wheaton used a 33-18 run to close out the remainder of the half and take a 45-30 advantage into the break. Brickley led the charge with 12 points, which included two old-fashioned three-point plays, and Shoemaker turned in eight points to aid the offense. The Lyons also received five points from junior guard Rebecca Arnone (Litchfield, N.H./Campbell), a trey by Ferrari, a layup from first-year Oppie Morris (Ware, Mass./Northfield Mount Hermon) and another three-point by classmate Emily Cuthbertson (Hudson, N.H./New Hampton School) that capped the run with 52-seconds left to go in the stanza.

Wheaton led by as many as 28 points with 7:09 remaining in the final half of play. Colorado College kept the game under ten points until the 3:01 mark of the first stanza when Brickley slipped by her defender and canned Pierce’s feed home for her final points of the opening 20 minutes of action.

Wheaton (4-0) hosts Tufts University on Monday, December 1 inside Emerson Gymnasium at 7 p.m. The Lyons, who are receiving votes in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today Division III Preseason Poll, will face a Tufts University that is coming off of a NCAA Tournament Final Four appearance from a season ago next month. Colorado College (0-3) continues its East Coast swing with a non-conference game against Bridgewater State University tomorrow at 6 p.m.

Mass. College Hoops: Wednesday Roundup

By NoontimeSports.com 

Below are results and game summaries from various men’s and women’s contests this evening.

Men’s Basketball

BC 62, No. 1 Syracuse 59 (OT): The Eagles outscored the Orangemen, 45-34 during the final two sessions, including overtime as Boston College handed Syracuse its first setback of the season. Olivier Hanlan paced the Maroon and Gold with 20 points, while Ryan Anderson stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, 14 rebounds (11 on defense), four assists, two blocks and one steal. The win snapped a five-game skid for BC.

BU 71, American 62: Dom Morris scored a game-high 16 points, while Maurice Watson Jr. added 13 points as the Terriers defeated Eagles and improved to 20-8 overall and 13-2 in Patriot League Play.

No. 12 WPI 58, Wheaton 46: Sam Longwell scored 13 points, Domenick Mastascusa recorded a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds off the bench as the Engineers defeated the Lyons and secured its ninth conference regular season title in the last 11 years. Agyei Gregory paced Wheaton with 13 points.

Elms 94, Mitchell 84: Andre French recorded a game-best 23 points, along with nine rebounds as the Blazers capped the regular season with their 14th overall win, 12th in NECC play.

Endicott 85, Wentworth 67: Lachlan Magee scored a game-best 16 points, while John Henault added 11 points as the Gulls defeated the Leopards. Ray Bessette paced Wentworth with 16 points.

Mount Ida 70, Norwich 66 (OT): Michael Joseph scored 15 points off the bench, including a triple at the end of regulation that forced an extra session, along with a free-throw in overtime, which lifted the Mustangs over the Cadets.

Wheelock 71, Regis 65: Paul Coucci scored 20 points and grabbed eight boards, Anthony Williams registered 19 points, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal as the Wildcats concluded their season with a victory over the Pride. Osanto Marc Jr. led Regis with 20 points.

Women’s Basketball

Holy Cross 90, Lafayette 76: Brisje Malone tallied 15 points and a game-best six rebounds, as well as became the program’s 30th player to net 1,000 career points as the Crusaders defeated the Leopards.

No. 1 Bentley 95, So. New Hampshire 55: Lauren Battista netted 16 points and recorded eight rebounds, three assists and two steals as the Falcons soared to their 24th straight victory. Courtney Finn registered 13 points, eight boards and six assists in the win.

Emmanuel 68, Johnson & Wales 59: Jennifer Bujnowski paced the Saints with 12 points, while Vanessa Bramante and Sarah Higgins each scored 11 points, respective, as Emmanuel defeated Johnson & Wales and improved to 9-0 in conference play.

MIT 57, Babson 56: Osheiza Otori recorded a layup with 41 seconds remaining, which provided the Engineers the lead for good as MIT defeated Babson in Babson Park. MIT’s Mari Kordell led all scorers with 23 points, while Linnett Graber paced the Beavers with 13 points. Jennifer Narle and Briana Hunt each netted 11 points in the setback.

Wellesley 54, Wheaton 52: Kendall Bianchi‘s layup with eight seconds remaining pushed the Blue ahead for good as Wellesley defeated Wheaton for the second time this season. Wellesley’s Leslie Leong led all scorers with 20 points, while Kiley Shoemaker and Laura Pierce combined for 22 points, 20 rebounds and five assists for Wheaton.

Suffolk 56, Anna Maria 51: Iliana Quadri scored 19 points, as well as recorded five rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals, which helped the Rams defeat the AMCATs. Trafficia Warburton paced Anna Maria with 16 points.

Mass. College Hoops: Wheaton Prepares For Its Final Stretch

By Matt Noonan

Wheaton College women’s basketball head coach Melissa Hodgdon is all about taking it one day at a time.

“We really just take it one game at a time,” said Hodgdon, who’s guided the Lyons to a 15-4 overall mark this season. “We’re 1-0 today and everyday our goal is to get better.”

The message of getting better will indeed be echoed this evening when the Lyons return to Emerson Gymnasium to prepare for Clark University, their first of six remaining foes.

Wheaton, which is currently in third place in the NEWMAC, won its first 12 contests before falling to MIT earlier this month, 60-59. And since their loss to the Engineers, Wheaton has won three of six contests (all three of those wins were second meetings, which secured season sweeps).

Yet, while Hodgdon was pleased with her team’s effort last night, a 77-58 victory over Emerson, she certainly believes the month of January helped the squad prepare for its final stretch.

“It’s always good to get a win, but sometimes you learn more from losses,” said Hodgdon.

“The Smith game was a great basketball game. It was a phenomenal basketball game to watch and I’ve obviously watched it 100 times since we’ve played it, but you get to see things (from a different angle) and I’ve learned things (from it, too).”

The lessons from the Smith-Wheaton game will definitely be used down the stretch, but so will the squad’s team play from last night, a key factor in their win over the Lions.

As Hodgdon said, “(This group) can pick each other up. Last night, (Rebecca Arnone) got in foul trouble, so (we received help from) Alyssa Almario, Laura Pierce and (Kirsten Ferrari). I feel like we’re pretty well balanced, but its just having that mentality that it’s not one person because they’re all capable of doing it.”

With a pair of practices lined up before their second meeting with the Cougars, Hodgdon will focus on using the additional time to help the Lyons improve, while also adhering to their 1-0 philosophy.

“I know Clark will come in here and they have to win, but we have to win and it’s kind of like play the best that day and that day is the championship game,” said Hodgdon. “I feel like we’re in a good spot health-wise, mentally and physically to go in and give them our best shot.”