Over break, the Cardinals have been putting in the work on the hardwood to earn their best start since the 2004-2005 season. The Cardinals opened up shop at the Silloway Gymnasium with the Courtyard by Marriott Tournament on Nov. 22 and picked up a pair of decisive victories against UMass Boston and Albertus Magnus.
In their home opener, the Cardinals managed to contain their opponents while shooting well under their average mark on the season. Despite the fact that the Cards may not have been as sharp as we’ve come to expect, the Birds were able to outclass the Beacons by 11. Captain Amber Wessells ’14 provided a spark for the squad, as she was the only player scoring in double digits with 13 points off of four-for-eight shooting.
The Cards surely got their groove back for the second leg of the tournament, dropping a season-high 89 points on an unsuspecting squad from Albertus Magnus. The Cardinals collectively shot their best team field goal percentage with a 47.2 percent mark on the contest. Coming off the bench, Dreisen Heath ’15 was just a rebound short of a double-double with a 20-point, nine-rebound exhibition. Kaylie Williams ’16 decided to show off her shot on Saturday as well, draining six of seven from the field to chip in 13 points along with eight boards. With the victory, the Cardinals rolled on to their best start in nine years, but a quick turnaround game the following Tuesday may have slowed down the celebration a bit.
In their third straight home matchup, the Cardinals fell early against a talented Vassar squad, trailing 40-18 entering the half. Unlike their gritty comebacks earlier in the season, the Cardinals were in no position to climb back from this deficit as they dropped the contest 65-52. Though the Cardinals played markedly better in the second half, Vassar was still able to outpace them by nailing over half of their field goals with a 52.7percent mark.
“Our loss against Vassar was a tough one,” Cherkira Lashley ’15 wrote in an email to The Argus. “It was new for us to have to recover from such a bad start. The score was 10-0 at the start and we took too long to respond. We struggled defensively and in rebounding. We lacked focus and even though we won the second half, the hole we were in the first half was too deep to come out of.”
There would be sufficient time to regroup over the holiday break, as the Cardinals would not be in action until this past Sunday when they hosted the University of St. Joseph. The Birds displayed great resolve by getting back to their winning ways in a grinding 70-66 battle that went down to the wire. With just 1:15 remaining in the contest, Wessells chose the perfect time to drain her first three of the game, and the trey ball put the Cards ahead of their opponents for good.
The Cards were able to persevere against such a persistent opposing side due in part to the monster efforts of Captain KellyAnn Rooney ’14. The senior leader was shooting lights out as she established a new career high for points with 22 on the contest to drive the Cards to a 6-1 mark.
Despite individual heroics, forward Lashley said that the early season success earned by the Cardinals has been a team effort all the way through.
“Our record has revealed that our team is growing and becoming more mature this year,” Lashley commented. “In the games and practices it’s become apparent that we are all committed to being teammates more than any other aspect of the game. I think that mentality is difficult to compete against and it’s largely responsible for our success thus far.”
On Thursday, Dec. 5, the women’s basketball team defended its home court yet again, drubbing Worcester State University with a 56-34 win. The Cardinal defense was unyielding, holding its foes to 10-of-53 from the field, a miserable 18.9 percent shooting. Worcester could get nothing going on offense against the stifling hosts, particularly in the first half as Wesleyan entered the break with a 32-13 lead. Williams led the way for Wes with 12 points and 9 rebounds, but the Cardinals really shut down Worcester as a team.
“It was a great team effort and team win,” wrote Captain Jenna Klaes ’14 in a message to the Argus. “We came in strong and ready for the game and executed as best we could.”
With a tough test looming before winter break in the form of Little Three rival Williams, the team will need to continue to create and capitalize on as many opportunities as it can. Additionally, Lashley said that pulling off a pair of wins to end the first portion of the season will involve a massive resurgence on the defensive side of the ball.
“Before this weekend we will need to regain confidence on defense,” wrote Lashley. “Good defense is our identity this year and we’ve got to reclaim that. We also need to get fired up! Our energy will set the tone.”