Senior captains Ashley Finnegan and Cassy Jouannet have led Westfield State statistically this season, but their leadership and unselfishness have also led the Owls to first place in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC).
Finnegan is ranked ninth in NCAA Division III with 16 double-doubles; she’s averaging 15.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Her frontcourt counterpart Jouannet is averaging 13.3 points and 8.4 rebounds.
Together, the 6-0 Finnegan and the 6-1 Jouannet are averaging nearly 29 points and 20 rebounds per game for the 18-5 Owls.
“Both players have been so consistent this year and a lot of that comes from the amount of minutes they’re playing and their conditioning,” Westfield head coach Andrea Bertini said.
Last season the tandem faced obstacles that affected their minutes and their play. Jouannet played with a stress fracture during the second half of the season. “You could see that something just wasn’t right,” Bertini said.
Finnegan transferred to Westfield in the 2009 fall semester after playing two years at Division II Mercy College in New York.
Transitioning to a new school and team can be difficult, but this year Finnegan is more comfortable and confident on the floor, according to Bertini. In addition, Finnegan had her appendix removed prior to transferring to Westfield, which slowed her throughout last season as well.
Last season Finnegan averaged 25.9 minutes per game and this year she is averaging 31.1. Jouannet leads the MASCAC in minutes played with 32.8 compared to 22.8 last year.
“This year from the day we moved into school our team got together and we played pickup every other day and we wouldn’t just play one game.
Sometimes we only had four people per team so we were running for a good hour,” said Jouannet.
Finnegan’s endurance level has also increased by demanding more of herself in practices.
“I just push myself more this year, which makes me in better shape for the games. This is the best shape I’ve been in here (at Westfield),” said Finnegan.
Although both players share many of the same skills such as hitting the outside shot, passing when they’re covered and getting after rebounds, they do have different styles that complement one another.
“Cassy is more comfortable on the block and Finn prefers to spot up and shoot,” said Bertini.
Both players are quick to praise each other’s strengths with interesting observations.
“Finn sees the floor a lot better than I ever do. She has a higher basketball IQ than I do so she’ll know when someone is in the wrong spot right away and she’ll see that and helps direct traffic, kind of like what most point guards do in Division I or Division II,” said Jouannet.
“The rest of the players joke that Finnegan is a guard in a forward’s body,” said Bertini.
“Cassy has more patience in the post than I do,” said Finnegan. “She will post up all day; she works hard to get the ball in the post.”
Both players are savoring each moment of their outstanding senior seasons.
“Every time before I go on the court, I’m like well this is one less game I’m going to play so I might as well make it the best game I can play,” said Finnegan. “Every time I step out there I give it my all and leave everything I possibly can on the court and I think that’s why I’ve been so consistent and my numbers have gone up. It’s just having that state of mind and it allows you to perform to the best you can.”
“Confidence and knowing that this is it,” said Jouannet. “Both of us understand that we’re seniors and we weren’t happy with the way last season ended. We tried our best to do anything to make it better and we worked hard over the fall and we’ve got a team that really respects us and understands what we want for our last year,” said Jouannet.
Jouannet has been a starter since she was a freshman and has improved each season, according to her coach.
“She just works so hard on her game that you can just see the change. You see the change in her confidence and willingness to take more shots, which I think in the past she was deferring,” said Bertini.
Having two players averaging double-doubles nearly each game is an outstanding accomplishment, but Bertini likes their game for other reasons.
“Finnegan and Jouannet have been great leaders and phenomenal captains,” said Bertini. “Their leadership and composure is important and they’ve really taken off as our leaders. They’ve done a great job of keeping the chemistry going good through some adversity that we’ve had this year.”
The turning point to the Owls’ stellar season came when they traveled to Puerto Rico in mid-December to play in the Puerto Rico Classic where they really came together as a team, said Finnegan.
“Ever since our trip to Puerto Rico, we love being around each other on and off the court and I think that’s why we’re jelling so well,” said Finnegan.
Despite the lengthy season, Finnegan and Jouannet have no problem staying motivated. For Jouannet, school helps her stay motivated for basketball and vice versa.
“I like the fact that I know I’m going to go play basketball and be with my teammates who I consider to be my close family here. It just makes the day go by a lot better,” said Jouannet.
Jouannet is also a standout member of the Westfield State softball team and she is the starting first baseman for the Owls who captured the 2010 MASCAC regular season championship.
“I enjoy playing multiple sports. I think that it helps make a well-rounded athlete and individual,” said Jouannet, who sports an impressive grade point average as a criminal justice major while also pursuing minors in environment science and wilderness leadership.
“It’s just who I am. I have to go to class and I can’t not do work. I may procrastinate, but I’ll take the time to do it and I’ll do it well,” said Jouannet.
The contributions Finnegan and Jouannet have made on and off the court show their true character and passion.
“They are two players that any coach would want on their team and if I had to pick any two players in all of the MASCAC to start my team, it would be those two because they bring just so many intangibles to the table,” said Bertini.