Despite some hard-fought wins, defensive woes have plagued the women's hoops team as they claw for a playoff spot.

After dropping a final game before the three-week break to rival Williams, the Wesleyan women’s basketball team continues to struggle in its efforts to piece together a stretch of wins. The Cardinals are 4-5 over their last nine contests, beating Hood College, Fitchburg State University, Johnson and Wales University, and Wellesley College, while losing to Nazareth College, Colby, Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Conn College.

The Cardinals traveled down to Daytona, Fla. for two games in the Land of Magic Classic. In the first game against Nazareth on Dec. 29, the Cards came up short 67-65, after the Golden Flyers sunk a game-winning layup with four seconds remaining. Wesleyan rallied from an 11-point deficit in the first half to tie the game late in the second half. A career-high 15 points from Cherkira Lashley ’15, however, wasn’t enough to propel Wes to victory.

The Redbirds battled back against Hood College the following day. Trailing early by eight, the Cardinals stormed back to take a commanding 13-point lead with 10 minutes remaining. Wes never relinquished the lead, winning 61-56. Both Jess Cherenza ’15 and Brenna Diggins ’17 put up double-doubles in the contest.

“Our games in Florida have positively redefined our season,” said Cherenza in an email to the Argus. “We were energetic and worked as a cohesive unit, capitalizing on our fast break game. The team chemistry from that tournament has carried over into the rest of the season.”

The Cardinals opened up the new year on a high note, with a 74-54 throttling of visiting team Fitchburg State. Wesleyan shot lights out, hitting on 57 percent of all attempts, a season high. Diggins again set the pace with 21 points on 7 of 10 from the field. The Cards never saw their lead dip below double digits, aided by a suffocating defense that limited their opponents to 25 percent of the field.

Wesleyan traveled to Maine to visit Colby on Jan. 9, the first in a stretch of 11 conference games of the team’s 13 remaining contests. Colby shot the ball too well in the first half to give the Cardinals a chance. At the half, the Cardinals trailed by 20 after Colby shot 8 for 11 from behind the arc. The Redbirds couldn’t mount a comeback, losing 76-54. One positive from the game was a career high of 12 points from Danielle Gervacio ’17.

Defensive inabilities were the theme of the Cardinals next game against conference opponent Bowdoin on Jan. 10. Despite trailing by only five points with nine minutes remaining in the first half, the Polar Bears took over offensively, closing the half on a 20-6 run. The Redbirds could never effectively chip away at the lead and dropped the game by a final of 75-52.

Wesleyan had its most thrilling win of the season over Johnson and Wales, 57-55, on Jan. 13. Falling behind for all of the first half and most of the second, the Cardinals clawed their way back into the game. Dreisen Heath ’15 hit two big free throws with 12 seconds left to give the Cards their first lead in over 30 minutes. Kaylie Williams ’16 was able to grab a rebound on the defensive end with five seconds left. After being fouled, Williams stepped to the line, hit her first to take a two-point lead, and grabbed her own rebound on her second as the clock expired. Williams finished with 10 points and 10 boards on the game.

Wesleyan jumped back into the NESCAC games with a visit from Middlebury on Jan. 16. The Cardinals were saddled by poor shooting and dropped another conference game, 50-46. The tightly contested game came out in Middlebury’s favor after a well-executed give-and-go layup in the final minute. Williams again had a strong game, posting a second double-double. No other Cardinal reached double digits in the game.

The Redbirds showed true grit playing at a neutral site against Wellesley on Jan. 20, pulling out a 43-38 victory. The Cardinals trailed 33-24 with 12 minutes left in the game. A 10-point swing brought the Cards within one. The Redbirds eventually prevailed by five, riding Heath’s game-high 16 points.

Still searching for their first NESCAC win of the year, the Cardinals thought they had Conn College figured out. Leading for 29 minutes, all the way until there were only three-and-a-half minutes left in the game, the Camels strung together a 15-2 run to take a three-point lead. Gervacio was able to hit a game-tying three-pointer with two minutes on the clock, but Conn again went on a small 7-2 run to end the game. Cherenza tallied her fourth double-double on the season, a small consolation after a difficult conference loss.

Captain Miller Hartsoe ’15 summed up the teams recent ups and downs.

“We picked up two important wins over Johnson and Wales and Wellesley,” Hartsoe said. “Both were true team efforts that showed our resiliency and have given us confidence heading deeper into NESCAC play. We need to use our home court advantage and pick up a few wins to establish ourselves as competitors in NESCAC.”

The Cardinals are still looking for their first conference win of the season, with matchups against Bates and Tufts looming this week. Their Tuesday night home slate against Little Three foe Amherst has been postponed due to weather.

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