The women’s basketball team planned on leaving the Swarthmore Tip-Off Tournament 2-0, and they completed that goal on Saturday as they defeated the Randolph-Macon College Yellow Jackets 61-60, and defeated Swarthmore 73-57. It was an impressive start to the season for the Cardinals as they were able to put their new and improved offense on display.
Although the game was close, the Cardinals seemed like they had an answer for everything Randolph-Macon threw at them. They held the lead for the majority of the game and every time Randolph-Macon seemed like they would go on a run, the Cardinals’ sharp shooting seemed to halt any momentum that the Yellow Jackets had built. There were only four lead changes, all of them occurring in the first five minutes of the game. Wes seemed like it was always in control, at one point up by 11 late in the 3rd quarter. But after a couple of turnovers, Wesleyan left the door open for the Yellow Jackets to stay in the game. And although Randolph-Macon tied the game with about a minute left, a late foul put Maeve Vitale ’18 on the line with 22 seconds left. Vitale sank 1 of 2 giving Wes just enough to escape the late Yellow Jacket swarm.
Captain Jackie Browne ’16 unfortunately could only watch from the sidelines as she tore her meniscus and will have to miss the season. Embracing her leadership role, she expressed her excitement with Saturday’s result.
“We did a really good job of executing our plays and sharing the ball within our offense,” Browne said. “We had really balanced scoring, which is hard for the defense to guard. It felt great to get back on the court finally. We’ve been practicing for the past three weeks, so it was really exciting to be able to apply what we’ve been doing in practice and play against another team.”
The Cardinals’ offense shot a solid 46 percent from the field, led by forward Brenna Diggins ’17 who scored 14. The squad often struggled on offense last year, so their improved shooting and ball movement definitely points in the right direction. Another bright spot for Wes was, as usual, the defense. They forced the Yellow Jackets to shoot 31 percent from the field, as the defense they were known for last year seemed to return in full force in the season opener. Randolph-Macon most notably struggled with their range as they shot a forgettable 15 percent from three-point territory. The only alarming stat for the Cards were the 25 turnovers which helped keep Randolph-Macon in the game. The sloppy play on the offensive side of the ball was largely responsible for the fourth quarter run by Randolph-Macon.
Another interesting note is the change in officiating this year. Browne also spoke about these alterations.
“Since it was only our first game and they changed all the game rules, there’s definitely some things we need to work on,” she said. “The way they call fouls is so much different this year, so we are going to work on that this week in practice.”
The Cardinals’ made a living off of creating turnovers last year with one of the stingiest and most physical defenses in the NESCAC conference. But with the new style of officiating, the Cards may need to tone down their physicality just a bit. Randolph-Macon was sent to the stripe 25 times and shot 80 percent. If the Cards can find a way to harness and discipline their defensive talent, they could develop into one of the best defensive teams in the conference.
Sunday’s tilt against Swarthmore against got off to a rocky start, as Wesleyan entered the half down 36-30. Luckily, the team came out of the locker room with a revitalized defensive energy, holding the Phoenixes to just 21 points in the second half. On the offensive end, the duo of Vitale and Danielle Gervacio ’17 shot a combined 6-11 from beyond the arc to spur the team to a 43-point half. When the final buzzer sounded, Wesleyan stood victorious at 73-57.
Looking forward, the Cards head to Amherst on Tuesday for their first NESCAC matchup. The Lord Jeffs went 25-4 last year and are 2-0 this year, coming off 58 and 60-point wins against Albertus Magnus College and Farmingdale State College, respectively. A win in this game would be a huge testament to Wesleyan’s status as a legitimate contender in NESCAC. On Sunday, the team will face the University of Saint Joseph at home.