Gowan begins new era in SVC women's basketball
BENNINGTON — For the Southern Vermont College women's basketball team, there is nowhere to go but up.
Following a season where SVC won just one game and its coach Mike Quinn retired mid-season, it was clear a change in direction was coming to the small, Bennington-based program.
Less than a month after the 2016-17 season concluded, the Mountaineers found their lady in Christin Gowan.
Gowan was most recently an assistant coach at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California for two seasons. Prior to her stint with OC, she was an assistant at her alma mater, California State University - Stanislaus, where she played her college ball and holds the record for best career and single season free-throw percentage.
Now Gowan makes the trip across the country - 2,846.6 miles to be exact - to take over a Mountaineers team that lost 24 of its 25 games a season ago. SVC will begin its season tonight when they take on Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at home.
Gowan has seen first hand the excitement her players have for this new era.
"They're working really hard and they're excited," Gowan said. "There's definitely a different vibe to it than what the players expressed what they felt in the past. I'm excited to see how we'll come out."
Gowan's message to her new squad has been consistent in the early weeks of practice: compete.
"We're going to compete. We're going to play super hard," Gowan said. "We're going to be in every game we play and we're going to represent SVC with pride."
The Mountaineers are returning five players from last season's squad, with highest scorer of that bunch being sophomore guard Taylor Mallett, who averaged 7.4 points. Defensively, sophomore forward Sarah Poirier is someone to look out for, as she racked up 1.8 blocks per game last season.
SVC brings in six newcomers to the program, with four freshmen and a pair of juniors joining the squad. Two of those newcomers have local ties as freshman Reileigh Harvey is from Bennington and junior Maddy Main is as well. Main attended Mount Anthony Union High School in town.
Coming off of a one-win season and lots of roster turnover, expectations from those outside the program are not very high. The New England Collegiate Conference picked the Mountaineers to finish eight out of nine teams in the conference, just above Bay Path.
Gowan and her squad are looking to use those low expectations as motivation coming into the season.
"I'm excited for the underdog role. I think that the kids embrace that too," Gowan said. "We'll definitely be in a lot more games than people anticipate. We'll be able to compete and we'll be in the final possession in games and hopefully pull out some wins."
Looking at today's game, SVC wants to avenge the loss they took to RPI in the season-opener last season, when they fell to the Engineers 77-45 in Troy, N.Y. RPI comes off of a 10-15 season and they are captained by seniors Kate Goodell and Shaina Iton. They also return their two top scorers in juniors Sam Krumbhaar and Elizabeth Eckhardt.
Taking on a veteran squad tonight will prove to be a tough test for the Mountaineers, but they feel ready for the challenge.
"We'll have to play exceptionally hard. That's what we're going to have to hang our hat on," Gowan said, on what it will take for her team to find success tonight and throughout the season.
Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. at Mountaineer Athletic Center.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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