With just two games left in the regular season, the women’s basketball team is well on their way to earning a place in the Liberty League finals. This past weekend the Brewers managed to secure two league victories, in spite of the vicious blizzard.
On Friday, February 8 the women hosted the William Smith Herons in a back and forth contest between both teams. In the first half alone there were seven lead changes and five ties. The Brewers came back from an eight point deficit to take the lead at the twelve minute mark. William Smith had a strong scoring streak, until a three pointer from freshman guard Caitlin Drakeley created a tie. With only a few minutes left in the half, the Herons made three three pointers to take the lead.
The second half was similar to the first, though Vassar was able to keep William Smith shooting 8 of 22, and secured the win. After intermission the Brewers improved their scoring, and maintained a 50-40 lead with seven minutes remaining. The Herons were able to close the thirteen point gap in the final minutes of the game, but Vassar’s seven free throws kept them ahead for the final 80-70 win. Essential to this offensive push was sophomore forward Colleen O’Connell, whose nineteen points and fifth double-double of the season led her to be named to the Liberty League Honor Roll this week. Junior guard Cydni Matsuoka also had 23 points and five steals.
Saturday was senior night for the Brewers, and both Ali Higgins and Natalie Allen were honored. Rochester Institute of Technology, coming off three League wins, was prepared for a win against the Brewers. Their immediate 10-2 lead in the first few minutes set the precedent for Vassar, as they continued tying up the score. After an 8-0 scoring surge led by O’Connell and Matsuoka, the Brewers took the lead and kept the game close. A few quick plays by junior forward Hannah Senftleber with sixteen minutes remaining gave Vassar their largest lead of thirteen points and kept RIT behind for the rest of the game.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Brewers’ 85-75 victory set a new record for most wins in school history. The nineteen wins, eleven of which are League wins, puts Vassar in a good position not only in the finals but also in hosting the Championship.
“One of our goals in the beginning of the season was to be Liberty League regular season champions,” sophomore guard Allyson Pemberton wrote in an emailed statement. “The past two seasons we have won the Liberty League Tournament Championship but we have yet to host a playoff game. We need the 1st or 2nd seed to do this. Entering the second half of the season we made a goal to win-out the rest of our Liberty League games in order to secure one of these top seeds. So far we have accomplished this new goal, and we are looking to win 2 more games this weekend in order to host a playoff game.”
Senftleber concurred. “If everything falls into place, our team has a very good chance at [hosting finals]. We aren’t going to be able to take any team for granted down the stretch, and continue giving it our all when we step out onto the court.”
Reflecting on the past victories, Senftleber noted her team’s vast improvement. “Down the stretch we have begun to peak at the right moment. By no means are we were we want to be, but we are buying into the system put forth by the coaches, and doing the little things that need to get done. We are really honing in on the defensive end, and limiting the scoring opportunities for opponents by securing the rebound. Every one of the past six wins have been crucial in its own way.”
Freshman guard Alex Moon agreed, noting the recent games were a time when “[w]e finally came together, as one team. Before every game in our pre-game huddle we always say ‘one heart, one dream, one team’ and these past few weeks I think we finally did justice to those words. We have a shot at being the #1 seed and hosting the LL tournament at home, which would be awesome so we can have one more chance to play in front of everyone who supports us the most. We’re just planning to go out there to have fun & keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’s been working this far!”