After a 2015-2016 campaign in which the Wheelock College women's basketball team finished 18-7, the Wildcats were picked to finish third overall in the New England Collegiate Conference standings in 2016-2017.
Losing only one player to graduation in 2016, Jen Albertelli, the team was poised to begin the new season in good shape. Key returners Michelle Woods and Brianna Hochwarter would set the foundation for success, as sophomore Katie Walsh looked to improve upon an already impressive rookie year. First year Head Coach Rita Atkinson took the reigns, expecting gainful contributions from Jaime Grzych as well as sophomore forward Sarah Tobin.
The Wildcats opened their season with a hard-fought, 69-58 loss at Eastern Nazarene College on November 15.
Wheelock opened the game by keeping pace with their competition and found themselves down by just one, 11-10. The first quarter ended 18-14 in favor of Eastern Nazarene. At the end of the second quarter, the Wildcats trailed 41-29, but they hadn't given up.
Coach Atkinson's squad actually outscored Eastern Nazarene in the second half 29-28, but it wasn't enough to come back from the first half deficit and the Wildcats ended up falling 69-58.
Katie Walsh posted a game-high 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Michelle Woods added another 17 points.
The team ended the season with a four-game win streak, capped by a 68-63 win over Newbury College on February 18. That conference win earned them the fifth seed in the NECC tournament and a quarterfinal contest at the fourth-seeded Mitchell College three days later.
Walsh carried Wheelock in the first quarter of the opening round, netting nine of her team's first 11 points and igniting an 8-0 run that gave the Wildcats the lead. She finished with 11 in the period as Wheelock led 16-12 after one. After a series of lead changes throughout the second quarter, a Michelle Woods three-point play with four seconds on the clock would put the visitors on top 26-21 heading into the break.
The Wildcats took their biggest lead at 45-30 following a trifecta by Grzych with just under two minutes to go in the third quarter. However, Mitchell cut into the deficit with a barrage of 3-pointers to end the period. Wheelock ended up scoring the final nine points of the contest—all at the free throw line—to seal the 69-56 victory.
The Wildcats' win over Mitchell was their first ever in NECC Tournament competition, thus providing them with their first ever semifinal appearance. They traveled to #1 seed Regis College on Thursday, February 23 for a 7pm contest.
The game was hard fought from both sides, but Regis took a 37-19 lead into the break. In the second half, the Wildcats pulled within nine at the end of the third after a trifecta from Michelle Woods. Regis, however, pulled away in the final frame to earn the victory, 66-45, ending the Wildcats' historic season with a 15-12 overall record.
Katie Walsh led the squad with a 10 point/11 rebound double-double, while Bri Hochwarter added 11 points off the bench.
Four players earned NECC honors after advancing to the semifinals for the first time in program history. Michelle Woods, Brianna Hochwarter, Katie Walsh, and Emily Doyle were recognized for their achievements during the season.
Senior Michelle Woods was named to the NECC First Team All-Conference for the third consecutive season after starting all 27 games. She led the team with 16.6 points per game on 39.8% shooting from the field and finishes her career as the Wildcats' all-time leading scorer with 1,827 points. Woods is also second all-time in rebounds (790) and field goal percentage (.403).
Senior Brianna Hochwarter was named to the All- NECC Second Team for the second year in a row. She was tied for second on the team with 14.2 points per game while shooting 35% from beyond the arc. That percentage was good enough to put her fourth in the NECC, and even though she only played two seasons at Wheelock, Hochwarter finishes third all-time in 3-point field goals made with 150.
Sophomore Katie Walsh was named to the All-NECC Third Team. She started all 27 games and averaged 14.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. Walsh was named NECC Player of the Week on January 23. As a sophomore, she is already third in Wildcats history in rebounds with 586.
Emily Doyle was named to the NECC All-Sportsmanship Team. Doyle averaged 4.3 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game. She played in all 27 games for the Wildcats, averaging 20.8 minutes per game.