By Josh Perry / HockomockSports.com
When Katherine Tamulionis arrived on the Merrimack College campus for her freshman year, she was confident that she was ready for the challenge of transitioning to college life and to college basketball, but she struggled to find the right fit between her commitments in the classroom and on the court.
Making the transition from high school to college is never easy, trying to find the right fit for classes, dorms, friends, a new campus, let alone the pressure of new teammates, new coaches, and a new practice schedule. It can be overwhelming.
"At Merrimack, it was tough adjusting to living at school and it was also a lot basketball-wise," Tamulionis explained. "I liked Merrimack, it just didn't end up being the right fit. It depends on what you want. Some people like playing basketball all day long."
After spending preseason with the team, Tamulionis decided to step away from the team. The following fall, she took a semester off to figure out what she wanted to do next. In December of that year, she made the decision to transfer to Babson College and she decided to get back on the court, joining the Beavers and making her collegiate debut Emory and Henry College (Va.).
"I was looking for academics first and then I loved the coaches, I loved the team, and they always made me feel comfortable when I came here," Tamulionis said of the switch. "At Merrimack, before classes I would go to practice and then after classes I would go to practice and it was just too much…I needed the structure and the right balance to be successful and I think I've found that at Babson."
The switch has worked out pretty well. Tamulionis played in 21 games her first season at Babson and last season (which was technically her sophomore year because of the credits that transferred over from Merrimack) she started 22-of-27 games and averaged more than eight points per game, including a career-high 19 against Emerson College in the NEWMAC quarterfinal.
Tamulionis has started all of Babson's first six games (4-2) and is second on the team with 11.2 points per game, shooting 44 percent from the field for the Beavers, who are riding a two-game win streak.
"The transition wasn't as hard as I expected," she said, "because I was able to get used to basketball and living on a different campus before I started the academic part. I got to get used to basketball, the team, and my friends and everything."
Besides moving during the winter break, several factors were in her favor when making the decision to move to Babson.
There was a familiarity with the coaches because they had recruited Tamulionis two years before when the HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and Hockomock League MVP was leading Foxboro to its first league title in more than a decade, while averaging 16 points per game.
There was also a familiar face that Tamulionis could lean on for advice. Former Foxboro standout Ashley Snyder was a member of the Babson team that season, after transferring to Babson from UMass Lowell. Snyder offered Tamulionis the inside info about the team, but also understood what it was like to move between schools.
"I was starting to doubt myself because obviously I thought Merrimack was the right place," Tamulionis admitted. "That's why I went to [Ashley] right away. She was very helpful because she knew what I was going through and the tough decision that I'd have to make."
Time away from the game also gave Tamulionis a different perspective. "I took a lot of time off from basketball," she reflected, "so it made me appreciate it more because I know what my life was like without basketball. I think I needed that time off to regroup and figure out what I wanted to do."
Moving a little closer to home had an added benefit last winter. Tamulionis was able to follow her sister Grace and her former teammates on their run to the Div. 2 state championship. "It was so much fun," she said about watching her sister bring home the title. "I was kind of living through them a little bit because that's obviously everybody's dream, but I'm so happy for those girls because they deserve it."
The Tamulionis sisters played together at Foxboro when Kat was a senior and Grace was just a freshman. That rookie class, which also included Lily Sykes, Ashley Sampson, and Shannon Smally, was a big factor in the Warriors making a run to the Div. 2 South final during Kat's senior year.
"They were all very good individual players but what made them good was that they played well together," she said. "I think that's what gave them the advantage."
When asked if she wished that she had them as teammates for more than one season to make another tournament run, Tamulionis agreed, "Definitely…Maybe even if they were just sophomores when I was a senior that would've been so cool with one more year of experience."
Experience is also something that Babson is counting on this winter. The Beaver come into the year with eight juniors or seniors on the roster. Many of the players have been together for two or three seasons and that chemistry has the team confident of challenging for the NEWMAC title and getting back to the NCAA Tournament.
"I feel like last year was more of a rebuilding year," Tamulionis said. "This year, we're trying to build on it. We've all played together for three or four years now and the upperclassmen have played a lot of minutes, so we're comfortable, and I think that chemistry is going to help us down the stretch."
Babson has already played several tough games this year, including league games against MIT (a 76-71 win) and Smith College (86-62 loss). "It was good to have those games first just to see where we are in the league and what we need to work on," Tamulionis remarked. "We need to treat every game the same and bring the same energy no matter who we go against."
As the team looks forward to the rest of a busy season, Tamulionis was able to reflect on how she got to Babson and how different things are not that she is there.
"It's different for everyone," she said. "When I transferred to Babson, it was just the right balance between basketball and academics. It was an easy transition."
(Babson improved to 5-2 on the season with a 65-54 win over the Coast Guard on Saturday afternoon. Tamulionis scored nine points for the Beavers in the win.)