Last weekend, the Wesleyan women’s basketball team continued its grueling conference schedule with tilts at Trinity and Little Three rival Amherst. On Friday, Feb. 6, the Cardinals secured their second conference win with a 54-45 victory over the Bantams. The next day didn’t yield the same result, as the Lord Jeffs, 10th ranked nationally, handily dispatched Wes 52-33.
The Cardinals entered the game with Trinity sitting on the bubble to grab the eighth and final spot in the NESCAC tournament. Trinity, also a one-win team in conference play, would be crucial game for the Redbirds. Through the first 11 minutes it was all knotted up at 11. Kaylie Williams ’16 got the offense going with a putback off an offensive rebound, which spurred a 7-0 run. Wesleyan turned the offensive surge into a ten-point lead at the half and was able to hold onto a comfortable advantage for most of the second half until just under two minutes when Trinity trimmed it to a 50-45 game. Wesleyan’s defense stood tough and held the Bantams scoreless for the remainder of the game. The Cardinals knocked down four free throws to finish with a nine-point win, 54-45.
Jess Cherenza ’15 led the team with 14 points and tacked on eight boards. Williams also added eight points and a team-high nine rebounds. In an email to The Argus, Williams summed up the game.
“The Trinity game was a great win for us,” Williams said. “I think what allowed us to pull ahead and win was our ability to hit shots and force turnovers on the defensive end.”
“Against Trinity, the most important thing was that we stayed calm under pressure and responded when they tried to take the momentum and close the gap,” said Captain Miller Hartsoe ’15. “We didn’t collapse but instead stepped up and responded back, helping us hold on to the lead and get the win.”
The Cards tried to ride the momentum of the Trinity win into their game at Amherst, but they knew a daunting task stood in their way. Amherst is one of the top Division III teams in the nation, so the Cardinals needed to be clicking on all cylinders. Danielle Gervacio ’17 described the mindset heading into the game.
“It’s always so competitive during Little Three games so we knew this was going to be a group effort,” Gervacio said. “Additionally, we also knew how challenging it would be to perform in Amherst’s gym. So we really definitely needed to be in sync on defense as well as consistently communicating throughout the game, especially against a great field goal percentage team like Amherst.”
Defense wasn’t the issue for the Cardinals, as they held the efficient Lord Jeffs to a season low 25.4 percent from the field. After falling behind by seven to open the game, Wes held Amherst close, never falling behind by more than double digits for the next 13 minutes. But with just over four minutes left, the Lord Jeffs stretched the lead to 11, 24-13. Amherst finally had an offensive breakthrough, closing the half on a 13-4 run, stretching the lead to 37-17.
The Cardinals second half was some of the best defensive basketball of the season. Amherst was held to 15 points on just four buckets.
“In the second half, we played a lot of zone which caught Amherst off guard and forced them into some end-of-shot-clock situations and uncomfortable shots,” Williams wrote.
However, the Cards just couldn’t get going offensively, scoring only 16 points of their own. Wes was marred by poor shooting, only knocking down 17.9 percent of its shots. Williams led the team scoring with nine points.
Despite the loss, Wesleyan still has a phenomenal opportunity to snag the eighth spot in the NESCAC championships. Currently, the Cardinals are tied with Hamilton for eighth, with a battle against the Continentals looming this Friday, Feb. 13 at home. The following afternoon is another Little Three test for Wesleyan against a solid Williams team. The team, and Hartsoe, seem ready for the challenge.
“This is a huge weekend coming up, as it determines our fate for the playoffs and is also an emotional Senior Weekend,” Hartsoe said. “Our mindset is just to take it day by day and move forward to keep getting better. Our best basketball is still in front of us.”