The first varsity women's team in Babson Athletics history, women's basketball has consistently ranked as one of the College's top programs. In its 39 years of existence, the team has won six conference championships, claimed one state title, and made 18 postseason appearances, inlcuding six trips to the NCAA Division III Tournament. The program has also produced numerous individual stars, including seven members of the Babson Ahletics Hall of Fame.
In the winter of 1974-75, women's basketball became the first varsity women's team in the history of the College. Under coach Fran Hartwell, the squad played in five games in its inaugural campaign. Although the Beavers fell in all five contests, they laid the foundation for a fantastic 1975-76 season in which the team went 7-3 behind 13.9 points per game from Nancy Flynn.
As its schedule grew tougher, Babson struggled over the next several years. Then in 1981-82, the Beavers set a new program mark for wins and earned their first-ever postseason bid, finishing 9-9 and qualifying for the MAIAW State Tournament. The team's success was due in large part to the arrival of future Athletics Hall of Famer Judy Pearson, who led the squad in points, rebounds, and steals in her first collegiate campaign.
A New Era Begins
The 1984-85 season saw the arrival of legendary head coach Judy Blinstrub. A mainstay in the Athletics Department ever since, Blinstrub enjoyed immediate success on the hardwood, guiding her team to a 14-9 record and a trip to the finals of the MAIAW State Tournament in her first season at the helm of the program. One of her top weapons was Pearson, who graduated that year as the program's all-time leader with 1,758 points, 814 rebounds, and 323 steals.
The following year marked another groundbreaking season for Babson women's basketball, as the team joined the New England Women's 6 (NEW 6). With Blinstrub and future Hall of Famer Sue O'Donnell leading the way, the Beavers finished third in the conference, earned their third MAIAW Tournament bid, and claimed the program's first-ever state championship.
After going 16-9 and earning yet another state tournament berth in 1986-87, Babson enjoyed its finest season to date in 1987-88, finishing 21-8, advancing to the finals of the NEW 6 Tournament, and earning the program's first bid to the ECAC New England Tournament. Anchoring the squad were future Hall of Famer Jenn Gottberg, who graduated with 1,252 points and a program-best 966 rebounds, and Laurie Hornik, who ended up with 1,062 points and a program-record 248 assists.
The next two seasons would see two more individual milestones, as Heather Rasch became the team's fourth 1,000 point scorer in 1988-89 and Joanne Choate graduated with program records of 1,122 rebounds and 11.3 rebounds per game in 1990.
The decade of the '90s saw Babson women's basketball reach new heights, beginning with the program's first conference championship in 1991 - this time in the expanded NEW 8. The following year, Babson went 26-4 and garnered its second ECAC New England Tournament bid, advancing all the way to the finals before falling to ECAC Champion Middlebury. Betsy Willgos made history that winter, becoming the program's first-ever NEW 8 Player of the Year and ECAC All-New England selection.
The next two seasons were among the most successful in Babson women's athletics history. Featuring a loaded roster that included 1,000 point scorers Willgos and Tonya Strange and future Hall of Famers Michele Merten and Julie Tienken, the Beavers went 23-5, won their second NEW 8 title, and earned the team's first-ever NCAA Tournament bid in 1992-93. After defeating Western Connecticut State in its first national tourney game, Babson played host to the Northeast Regional, where the team fell to Capital in the Sweet 16. Leading the charge was Merten, who was named NEW 8 Player of the Year, ECAC All-New England First Team, and NCAA Northeast Sectional All-Tournament, and Blinstrub, who was selected as the New England Women's Basketball Association Coach of the Year.
The Beavers were spectacular again in 1993-94, going 23-4 and making its second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. Merten was again the dominant force, becoming the program's first All-America honoree, while Tienken graduated as the team's all-time leader with 368 steals. Merten would graduate a year later with a program-record 1,927 career points and 1,030 rebounds - making her the only player in Babson history to surpass 1,000 points and 1,000 boards.
Babson continued to play well late in the decade, going 19-8 and earning an ECAC Tournament bid in 1997-98 behind 1,000 point scorer Beth Giovannini, and then finishing 19-9, claiming the team's first conference championship as a member of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), and earning the program's third bid to the NCAA Tournament in 1998-99. Anchoring the team in the latter season was Shannon Campbell, who was named NEWMAC Player of the Year.
2000 and Beyond
The new millennium brought continued success for Blinstrub's crew, as Babson earned four more ECAC Tournament bids in 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2005. The 2001-02 season saw the program win 20 games for the fifth time in program history, while Meredith Eddy became the ninth player to reach 1,000 career points. The following year, Ingrid Miller reached the 1,000-point plateau, a feat that would be matched by Suzy Ward in 2006-07 and Caitlin Boulier in 2007-08.
The "Big Three" Era
The 2008-09 season ushered in a new era of dominance for Babson women's basketball, as All-New England first-years Nicole Wurdeman and Kathleen King arrived and immediately led the Beavers to the NEWMAC Championship and another NCAA Tournament berth. Wurdeman was not only named NEWMAC Player of the Year, but also garnered NEWMAC, ECAC New England, D3hoops.com Northeast Region, and NEWBA Rookie of the Year honors. The following year, center Sarah Collins joined King and Wurdeman to form one of the greatest front-court trios in the country. The Beavers promptly went 28-4 in 2009-10 - including a perfect 21-0 mark in NEWMAC play - won its second straight NEWMAC title, and advanced to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. At the conclusion of the season, Wurdeman became just the second Babson women's basketball player to be named All-America, garnering Third Team honors from D3hoops.com and Honorable Mention status from the WBCA, while Blinstrub was named NEWMAC and New England Coach of the Year.
That set the stage for one of greatest seasons in Babson Athletics history in 2010-11, as Babson won its first 30 contests before falling to eventual National Champion Amherst in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals - the program's second straight appearance in the Elite 8. In addition to setting a program record for consecutive wins, the Beavers earned the distinction of being the last remaining undefeated women's basketball team in the country - Division I, II, or III. Wurdeman garnered D3hoops.com and WBCA Honorable Mention All-America honors for the second season in a row, King and Collins earned All-New England recognition, and Blinstrub was named NEWMAC, New England, and District I Coach of the Year.
Wurdeman and King's final season was another historic campaign for the Beavers, as the 2011-12 squad went 26-3, won its fourth straight NEWMAC title, and advanced to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. Along the way, Blinstrub collected her 500th career coaching victory, Wurdeman became the first player in Babson history to surpass 2,000 career points (finishing with 2,042), both she and King eclisped 1,000 career rebounds, and Collins netted her 1,000th point as a junior. King was once again named All-New England, Collins was named All-America Fourth Team by D3hoops.com and Honorable Mention All-America by the WBCA, and Wurdeman earned her third straight D3hoops.com All-America honor while becoming the first person in program history to be one of the ten players selected to the WBCA All-America First Team. As a team, Babson finished first in the nation in Division III with a .298 field goal percentage against and a +15.2 rebound advantage per game.
Following the departure of her magnificent front-court mates, Collins took her game to an entirely new level in her senior season of 2012-13, leading the nation with 25 double-doubles and leading Babson to another 26-3 record, its fifth straight NEWMAC Championship, and fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. With Collins leading the way, the Beavers also recorded yet another sweep of NEWMAC play, extending their conference winning streak to 85 games. After finishing her career as the program's all-time leader with a .549 field goal percentage, 1,170 rebounds, and 346 blocked shots in her career, Collins was named All-America first team by both the WBCA and D3hoops.com, conference Player of the Year by the NEWMAC, and regional Player of the Year by D3hoops.com, NEWBA, and the ECAC.
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