NCAA Tournament: Holyoke’s Callie Cavanaugh among familiar faces to Pioneer Valley

  • Former UMass guard Grace Heeps, left, and Ellen Hahne celebrate after Albany’s win over Maine in the America East Conference women’s tournament championship March 11 in Orono, Maine.  AP

  • Holyoke's Czllie Cavanaugh is Fairfield's second leading scorer as the Stags open the NCAA Tournament on Friday against Texas. COURTESY FAIRFIELD ATHLETICS—

Staff Writer
Published: 3/17/2022 9:12:40 PM
Modified: 3/17/2022 9:12:28 PM

The Pioneer Valley has more than UMass to root for in the women’s NCAA basketball tournament.

Three players with local ties are set to compete in the big dance, which tips Friday.

Holyoke grad Callie Cavanaugh is a redshirt senior at Fairfield, the No. 15 seed in the Spokane region. The Stags will face No. 2 Texas at 8 p.m. Friday in Austin, Texas (ESPN2). Cavanaugh, the city of Holyoke’s all-time leading scorer, ranks second on the team averaging 9.6 points per game. She has a team-high 23 blocks and averages 4.3 rebounds per game, hitting double digits in 14 contests. Fairfield (25-6), which lost to UMass on Dec. 1, has won its last 15 games, including the MAAC championship.

South Hadley native Lexi Weger helped Princeton return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019. The No. 11 Tigers are up against No. 6 Kentucky, the surprise SEC champions, at 4 p.m. Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. (ESPN). Weger, a junior who played high school basketball at Episcopal in Virginia, has seen action in 13 games this season, most recently March 6 at Harvard. She’s averaging 1.2 points and 1.1 rebounds per game.

Williston Northampton product Jordyn Meunier, a Longmeadow native, is on the roster for No. 14 American, which is at No. 3 Michigan at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2). She’s appeared in four game this season.

OLD FRIENDS IN NEW PLACES – There are also three former UMass women’s basketball players competing in the NCAA Tournament.

Maeve Donnelly played two seasons for the Minutewomen before transferring to Hawaii. The Rainbow Wahine are a 15 seed and face No. 2 Baylor at 4 p.m. Friday in Waco, Texas (ESPN2). Donnelly has played in eight games this season and averages 2.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

Maddie Sims transferred to UMass last season after beginning her career at Siena. She’s now a graduate student at Delaware, the No. 13 seed in the Spokane Region that will face No. 4 Maryland in College Park at 5 p.m. Friday (ESPNU). Sims has appeared in 25 games this season, starting one. She averages 1.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.

Northfield Mount Hermon product Grace Heeps spent her freshman season at UMass before transferring to Albany in 2020. She’s started 31 games for Albany this season, averaging  4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. The Great Danes are the No. 16 seed in the Wichita Region and are at No. 1 Louisville at 6 p.m. Friday (ESPN2).

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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