Basketball concludes top season

The women’s basketball team won the regular season Liberty League title this year. They soon vied with William Smith for the semifinals, but a 69-58 loss ultimately ended their historic, record-breaking season. By: Jacog Gorski
The women’s basketball team won the regular season Liberty League title this year. They soon vied with William Smith for the semifinals, but a 69-58 loss ultimately ended their historic, record-breaking season. By: Jacog Gorski
The women’s basketball team won the regular season Liberty League title this year. They soon vied with
William Smith for the semifinals, but a 69-58 loss ultimately ended their historic, record-breaking season. By: Jacog Gorski

The Vassar College Women’s Basketball team has enjoyed incredible success over the past few years, and this one was no different. They finished this year’s season with an impressive 21-5 record and went 13-3 in Liberty League play for the 2012-2013 season. The Brewers also won the regular season Liberty League title this year, an honor that has eluded them for some time despite winning the Liberty League Championship for the past two years. They began this year’s tournament with a bye for the first round and hosted the tournament semifinals against William Smith. The Brewer women were given the number one seed in the tournament before their historic season ended with a disappointing 69-58 loss to No. Four seeded William Smith.

This season was historic in many ways for the Brewers. While they were not able to cap off the season with an NCAA berth and Liberty League Championship, they still had the best regular season record in program history as well as the best in the conference.

The women’s basketball team has dramatically improved in the recent years. Senior forward Natalie Allen is witness to the program’s growth. “My freshman year, we won 9 games the entire season,” Allen noted in an emailed statement. “My sophomore year we ended up with only eight players, but we worked harder than any team out there and  won the first Liberty League Championship and went to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.  My junior year we repeated both of these feats.”

Sophomore forward Colleen O’Connell reflected on the success of the past year. “One of the goals we reached that I am most proud of is winning the Liberty League Regular Season title for the first time in school history,” she commented. “Individually, we are all different basketball players, with a variety of skill sets and levels of experience. To accomplish this goal, it meant that we had to pool together our individual talents and play to our strengths to become a cohesive unit on the floor while facing many tough league opponents. In capturing the Regular Season Title, we definitely did this, and I could not be happier to have accomplished this goal with my teammates.”

Captain and junior guard Cydni Matsuoka, already a multi-record holder, managed to score her 1000th career point this year. During her freshman season in 2011 was named Liberty League rookie of the year, and All-D3Hoops.com named her national rookie of the year in 2011 and was named to the All-Championship Team both last year and the year before. Additionally, she received All East Second team honors from All-D3Hoops.com last season and an All America Honorable mention from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association last year. This year, she was also named Liberty League player of the year along with receiving First Team honors.

Matsuoka led the league in field goal percentage, assists, free throw percentage, three-point field goal percentage and assist to turnover ratio. She was second in scoring and was 11th in the nation in assists. She scored in double figures in 24 of 26 games and had eight games with 20 or more points. In every game but two she had three or more assists and had five or more assists over 15 times.

Sophomore forward Delaney Fischer commented on Matsuoka’s talent. “Cydni is an all-around player. She is obviously a scorer and led our team in PPG (points per game) this year but is also an excellent defender…[and] a playmaker for others to score with her swift passes.”

She will continue to dominate on the court, along with captain and O’Connell. O’Connell helped to bring the Brewers to their historic finish this year. She was named All East Rookie of the year by All-D3Hoops.com last year and to the All-League First team once again this year. O’Connell led the Brewers in rebounding and was second in scoring. She scored in the double digits in 14 games with a season high of 26 points against Bard. She finished 11th in the league in scoring.

A strong presence for the Brewer women is their Head Coach Candice Brown, along with Assistant Coach Margaret White. Brown was once again named the Liberty League Coach of the year. This is the second time she has received this honor, after having received it in 2011. This is also the second time the Brewers have won both the Coach of the Year and Player of the Year awards: this year with Matsuoka, and in 2011 with Brittany Parks ’12.

Brown led her team to the school’s best winning percentage ever with .840 overall and .812 in league play. Her team finished the season with eight straight league wins. Vassar also lead the Liberty League in scoring, scoring margin, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, offensive rebounding and assists.

Allen is grateful for Brown’s effective leadership. “Playing for Coach Brown has definitely made me much tougher mentally, I don’t think will ever have a tougher boss, so I feel like she has really prepared me for high pressure jobs in the real world.” She continued, emphasizing the importance of on the court knowledge. “The thing I don’t think people realize is how much you can learn through sports that you can’t learn in a classroom. Obviously, you learn how to be  a member of a team, how to understand and fulfill your role, how to work under pressure etc. But you also learn how to win, and more importantly how to lose and how to bounce back from a loss.”

This year’s team had four freshmen and graduates two seniors. They outscored their opponents overall 1802-1529. In fact, the team leads their opponents in every category except for three-point field goals made per game, turnovers, assist/turnover ration, turnovers per game and blocks.

Fischer knows that her team deserves to go farther in future seasons. “I hope we are able to host the tournament again next season and a different outcome occurs,” she noted. “Our team works our ass off. From the first week we get to school [onward], we are all in the gym together playing pick up and conditioning. I know that next year, we will have even more desire to win league and advance to the NCAA tournament.”

O’Connell echoed Fischer’s sentiments, and spoke to the dedication of her teammates. “The players on our team are hard working and extremely motivated,” she remarked. “I know that together, we can definitely build off of our success this past season. In the offseason, we will put in a lot of work in the weight room and on the court to refine our skills and come back next year ready to defend our Regular Season Title. One thing that I know we are capable of is establishing Vassar Women’s Basketball as a national competitor in Division III Basketball, and I believe that next season will be the time for us to do so.”

The team looks forward to next year after having experienced one of the best seasons in program history and continuing their Liberty League dominance with two of the League’s best players returning once more.

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