W&M's Swanson says "mahalo" for Masaquel

Contact Reporterkholtzman@vagazette.com

WILLIAMSBURG – When Ed Swanson interviewed for the vacant William and Mary women's basketball head coaching job in 2013, there was one scholarship offer still "out" or without a decision attached to it.

It belonged to junior Alexandra Masaquel, who Swanson learned upon accepting the position had committed to the Tribe without knowing who the next coach would be.

Lucky for Swanson and William and Mary.

The transition from the high school game to college wasn't seamless for Masaquel, but the 5-foot-10 post player born in California and raised in Hawaii has blossomed into one of William and Mary's most important players.

On Monday, Masaquel was named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week after averaging 15 points, 12 rebounds and 3.5 steals in a 2-0 stretch for the Tribe that included a 75-64 win over Old Dominion as well as a thrilling 65-59 overtime victory over reigning league champion James Madison.

"She's starting to put it all together," Swanson said.

The same might be said for William and Mary (11-2, 2-0 CAA), which is off to its best 13-game start in program history and hosts Drexel 2 p.m. Sunday.

James Madison had been the only CAA opponent Swanson was yet to defeat other than Elon, which joined the league last year.

Masaquel tallied her fourth double-double of the season against the Dukes, scoring 14 points to go along with a season-high 15 rebounds.

On the season, Masaquel's 12.3 scoring average is second on the team behind junior Marlena Tremba's 14.1. Masaquel also leads the team in rebounds (8.5) and field goal percentage and is second behind sophomore Abby Rendle in blocks.

"She works really hard and she definitely is a fighter," said sophomore captain Jenna Green, of Masaquel. "If she misses a layup, she gets mad and she'll get the next one. She'll just go up stronger the next time. That's just the type of player she is and that's really helped us a lot."

Masaquel played only sparingly as a freshman before jumping into a starting role last season. Initially, she played on the wing before settling back into the post, where she thrived in high school for 'Iolani School, in Honolulu, and the Kalakaua Wahine AAU team that ventured onto the mainland for tournaments.

Masaquel had no qualms about traveling so far away for school. She wanted to get out of her comfort zone. It helps that her dad, Alberto, works as a mechanic for United Airlines. That means discounted airfare for the 14-hour-plus journey.

The hardest things for Masaquel to adjust to have been a cooler climate and more fast-paced lifestyle.

She brought along her ukulele to cope, though. And she knows how stereotypical it seems.

"Everyone at home likes to play it when we're at the beach or at school," Masaquel said. "We'll just bring the ukulele and start jamming out to whatever song is popular.

"When I'm feeling stressed or something, I'll just strum it a little bit."

CAA opponents may need to borrow it for a few sessions if Masaquel keeps progressing at this rate.

"I think right now, you're seeing somebody that's still learning the game of basketball," Swanson said, "and also gaining a lot more confidence."

The team's confidence is also at an all-time high under Swanson, who tells the players, "This is not as good as it can get."

William and Mary women's basketball has an all-time winning percentage south of 45 percent and the Tribe has never reached the NCAA Tournament.

Last season, William and Mary made its first postseason appearance in the Women's Basketball Invitational and finished the season 15-16 and sixth in the league standings.

"A lot of people still don't believe that we are that good, but I think our program has changed and they don't realize that," Masaquel said. "I see big things for us this coming season."

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-345-2352.

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