This fall, basketball season started early for Carla Berube, the new head coach of the Princeton women. In the New England Small College Athletic Conference, where Berube built Tufts into a Division-III powerhouse over the last 17 years, practices began Nov. 1. By that point, Berube and her Tigers were already more than a month into their preseason.
Getting to know her new players has been a lot of fun, Berube told PAW: “They’re soaking up everything that we’re teaching them.”
Berube, a player on coach Geno Auriemma’s first national-championship team at Connecticut, arrived in Princeton in June, taking over for Courtney Banghart, who became the new head coach at North Carolina. Banghart’s 12-year run with the Tigers included seven Ivy League titles and eight NCAA Tournament appearances — a record that put Princeton among the country’s most successful “mid-major” programs. Meanwhile, Berube coached a perennial national-title contender in Division III, leading Tufts to the Final Four in four consecutive seasons (2014–17).
Berube said her staff has placed an early emphasis on defense, stressing the ways in which sound defending can lead to scoring opportunities in transition. Princeton, the two-time defending Ivy champion, looks particularly strong on the offensive end, led by star forward and co-captain Bella Alarie ’20, who averaged 22.8 points per game last year and is on pace to become the program’s all-time leading scorer.
Alarie spent parts of her summer playing with USA Basketball in the Pan American Games and at international 3-on-3 tournaments, gaining experience that Berube said has sharpened her ball-handling skills and expanded her ability to create opportunities for open shots. “She’s definitely taken her game to another level,” Berube said. “I think she’s playing — and leading — with a lot of confidence.”
The Tigers also return All-Ivy point guard Carlie Littlefield ’21, who improved her scoring average by nearly six points last season; three-point shooting threat Abby Meyers ’22; and Grace Stone ’22, who started 29 games in her freshman year.