BENNINGTON - The Southern Vermont College men's basketball team gets back into the swing of things quickly this week, as the Mountaineers return from the winter break to play three New England Collegiate Conference opponents.
SVC, which is 7-3 overall and 1-0 in the conference heading into 2014, starts the week on the road against Becker College, a team that the Mountaineers have yet to beat as a member of the NECC. The Mountaineers will then head home for a Thursday night showdown with Newbury College, and the team will round the week out on Saturday on the road at Lesley College.
"We get a chance to play two of the premier teams in the league [Becker and Lesley]. It is a great opportunity to see where we stand amongst those teams," coach Dan Engelstad said. "We had a good week of practice. We had to get a lot of the rust off. I joked with the team that we are in the NBA for the next two months, playing two or three games every week."
On Tuesday, SVC will meet a Becker team that is 4-5 on the season, with one of the wins coming against NECC opponent Wheelock.
Becker is led by guards Donovin Ford-Hayes and Tyler Roberson. Ford-Hayes is averaging 17.7 points-per-game heading into the contest, while Roberson is adding 15. The team is led in the front court by forward David Maturah, who averages 6.3 rebounds and 1 block per contest.
The Mountaineers enter the contest with their most recent games coming in the Rotary of Frederick Holiday Classic in Maryland, where the team went 1-1. SVC topped Penn State-Harrisburg 88-84 in 2OT in the first game, while falling to hosts Hood College 80-66 in the final.
"It was a good chance to get guys to play in front of family and friends," Engelstad said. "We got in a game like we did in two overtimes. We found ways to let them back in the game. We got in two games, overall it was a great experience for us."
The team made a shift in the starting lineup that Engelstad said looks to be permanent, as freshman Rayshawn Taylor got the start in both contests and was able to excel. Taylor scored 25 against Penn State-Harrisburg, while adding seven rebound, seven assists, and four steals. In the loss to Hood, Taylor had 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.
"I thought [Taylor] has really come along nicely in the last couple weeks," Engelstad said. "I think his confidence in his game, we always knew he was talented, but we think he bought in to the defensive side."
Engelstad was also excited at the prospects of playing a game at home. Over the 10 games the team has played, only one was in the confines of the Mountaineer Athletic Center.
"To be standing at 7-3, and we have only had one home game, that is pretty impressive," Engelstad said. "We had that taste against Sage [at home]. [The fans] really gave us a shot in the arm. It's a fun place to play and the guys are looking forward to it."
The Southern Vermont women's team also gets into the heart of conference play this week, as the Mountaineers host Lesley on Tuesday, followed by a road trip to Newbury on Thursday and a Saturday home game against Wheelock College.
While the men were off last week, the women got in their final non-conference game on the road at MCLA. The Mountaineers fell 83-52 in the contest.
Sophomore Amber Flagg scored 20 for the Mountaineers in the loss, while fellow sophomore Sarah McDonald had 15 points and seven rebounds. MCLA was led by Brayleigh Hanlon with 24 points.
Lesley heads into the contest with a 0-10 record, including three NECC losses. Lesley is led by guards Sarah Apgar (7.2 PPG) and Emily Fleming (6.6 PPG).