The women’s basketball team has trudged through its grueling conference schedule, playing many close matches against strong teams without reaping the results it hoped for. On Friday, Jan. 30, the Redbirds (8-10, 1-1 NESCAC) finally put together a complete game, dismantling Bates (0-6 NESCAC) on their way to a 69-56 victory. The following day didn’t yield the same successes, as nationally ranked Tufts (6-0) handed the Cardinals a fifth conference loss, 77-53.
Bates came into the Silloway Gymnasium tied with the Cards at the bottom of the league. Each team entered the contest winless against conference foes, but Wesleyan seized the opportunity with a decisive win.
After an early 4-4 tie, Wesleyan went on a 9-0 run and never looked back: Bates never narrowed the gap by more than six points. The Cardinals led by 11 at halftime, 36-25. With eight minutes left in the second half, the Cards stretched their lead to a game-high 17 points, 56-39. Bates mounted a comeback, going on a 14-4 tear, to get the game within seven, but the Cardinals hung tough. With just over three minutes remaining, Wesleyan put the game on ice with a nine-to-three run.
The Cards gained their first conference win by assembling a true team effort. Five different players scored in double figures, led by senior Captain Jess Cherenza’s 15 points and 15 boards. Kaylie Williams ’16 added 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting from the field.
“The Bates win…was the first time in a while for our program that five players scored in double digits against a NESCAC team,” Williams wrote in an email to The Argus. “Our team is really good when we can get out and run in transition, which is what we did against Bates and we shot a great percentage from the floor and from three-point land. Our team defense was also key.”
The Cardinals had a strong shooting day, making 42 percent of their shots, and 44 percent from behind the arc. They held the Bobcats to just 25 percent from the field.
“Easy transition buckets were key. Also, we had 15 assists, which shows how much we looked for each other and shared the ball,” Captain Miller Hartsoe ’15 wrote in an email to The Argus.
The following afternoon, the Cardinals were put to the test against Tufts. The Jumbos were undefeated in conference play and 17-1 on the season entering Saturday’s tilt. Wesleyan hung tight early, tied at 21 with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half. Tufts used the rest of the first half to string together a 21-8 run.
The Cardinals opened the second half with two quick scores to narrow the margin to nine, but that was as close as they would get. Tufts stretched the lead to 26 with two minutes left, controlling the tempo of the game for most of the second half.
Cherenza continued her strong week by putting up 16 points in the losing effort. Dreisen Heath ’15 had 12 of her own to go along with three steals.
“Tufts is a great team. They have really athletic post players so we really wanted to have a strong presence in there as well,” Danielle Gervacio ’17 wrote in an email to The Argus. “We also really wanted to be committed to executing our plays and being smart throughout the game. I think there was a lot of effort and heart on Saturday but we just came up short to a competitive Tufts.”
Next up for the Redbirds are games against rivals Trinity (1-6) and Amherst (5-2). The Amherst game away looks to be one of the biggest challenges Wesleyan will face all season, but the team displayed confidence heading into the week.
“We have a tough weekend ahead of us but we’re excited to play Trinity and Amherst. It’s always fun to play both of them because of the high level of play,” Gervacio wrote. “I think we’re going to do really well in Amherst’s gym. We’ve done well on the road this season and I know our coaching staff is definitely going to prepare us with everything we need to get a W against them. It won’t be easy because of how strong they are, but as long as we execute I think we’ll come out successful next weekend.”
Hartsoe echoed this sentiment, stressing the importance of the upcoming games.
“We’re excited to spend the week prepping for two more big games next weekend,” Hartsoe wrote. “This is the most important time of the season. Playing Amherst always brings a special type of intensity and urgency, and I can’t wait to see how our team responds. We’re more than capable of coming out 2-0.”