Their season may be over, but junior center Katie Zenevitch and the Boston College women’s basketball team are suddenly brimming with confidence.
The 6-foot-3 Zenevitch, the former Central Catholic star from Methuen, and the Eagles are coming off an impressive performance in the ACC tournament, one that has them gushing with optimism as they look ahead to next year.
As an 11th seed, Boston College upset Virginia in the first round, marking only the second time such a low seed has won an ACC tournament game, and then it took a powerful 27-5 North Carolina team to the wire before falling, 62-57.
That may have put a wrap to a 10-17 season, but it also was a gift in the confidence department.
“I’m extremely happy with the way the season ended,” said Zenevitch. “The team made so many improvements ... I don’t think people thought we could do so well in the tournament.”
A lot of that improvement can be attributed to Zenevitch according to first-year coach Erik Johnson, a former BC assistant who originally recruited her and came back after three seasons as head man at Denver University.
As basically the team’s lone regular contributor down low, Zenevitch led the team in blocks and rebounds (6.8 per game), was second in scoring (12.1) and led the team in field goal percentage (.504) and both free throw totals (71) and percentage (.855).
“We had to rely on Katie a lot,” said Johnson. “We didn’t have a true post player so she had to play as our center. We morphed our game around her — basically, we had four guards and her — and we made it work.”
It was a work in progress during the season, however. Early in the season, the team struggled as it adjusted to a new system and Zenevitch had to learn a different style of play.
“It took us awhile to get used to the offense and the accountability we all needed to make,” said Zenevitch. “I think we’re used to each other now and know what we need to do.
“For me, they wanted me to drive to the basket more, make contact and get to the line more. They also wanted me to improve my post defense.”
Explained Johnson: “Katie has such versatility, but she wasn’t using it. She has a great jump shot, but she needed to know when to use it and when to go to the basket.
“She has the moves to score (on drives), plus we want her to get to the foul line. She’s one of the top free throw shooters in the country so we want to take advantage of that.
“Katie is so coachable, I give her a lot of credit for the way she’s developed. It helped the team and it’s helping her become a more complete player.”
Zenevitch’s evolution into a more complete player should help the Eagles next year even if she does not return to center. Karima Gabriel, a transfer from DePaul who red-shirted this year, as well as red-shirt Amber Cooper, are more natural centers.
“Katie is an ideal power forward and that’s where we’d like her if it works out,” said Johnson. “The ACC is a big-player league and she was always playing against players bigger than her.
“I hope we have a true post player, and Katie can be a forward so she can really use her versatility. but we’ll play our best five players.”
For her part, Zenevitch would prefer to be playing more forward. But, whatever the position, she’s excited about BC’s potential for next year.
“We definitely made strides this year,” she said. “We just have to take it to another level next year and we think we can do that. Getting in the NCAA tournament is our goal.”
Boudreau makes waves
Among the four starters back next year is Andover freshman guard Nicole Boudreau, who Johnson expects to contribute even more than this year, when she averaged 11.1 points, was one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference and made the ACC all-freshman team.
“Nicole was phenomenal,” said Johnson. “Her poise and composure for a freshman was fantastic. She was a big part of our offense and she was guarding some of the best guards in the country and doing a good job.
“It was fun to see the symmetry between Katie and Nicole since they were such rivals in high school.”
Said Zenevitch: “Everyone thought it’d be strange with me and Nicole, but it wasn’t. She was just like any other player at first and then we’ve gotten close during the season. She’s such a great player.”