Women’s basketball raced out to a 6-1 start to the season, winning two tournaments and losing only to a stacked Amherst team. Things, however, got dicey for the Cards heading into finals week, as the NESCAC schedule picked up significantly, leading to a major step up in competition.
In their first matchup, the Cardinals attempted to hang with Williams but were simply overpowered by Ephs guard Devon Caveney, who dropped 29 points in the 81-62 blowout. This game seemed to kill any momentum Wesleyan had built up, and the team dropped subsequent games against beatable teams. The Red and Black were bested 66-51 by Springfield College in the first round of the Naismith Tournament. They then dropped their consolation game to Plattsburgh College by a score of 68-59.
The team continued its struggles the following weekend against Middlebury and Hamilton. Wesleyan couldn’t stay out of foul trouble against Middlebury, allowing opposing guard Sarah Kaufman to go to the free throw stripe 16 times, of which she converted 15 on her way to 31 points. This 76-59 loss was followed by a game against NESCAC bottom dwellers Hamilton, who had yet to win a conference matchup on the season. A 15 point first half set the stage for Wesleyan’s 65-60 loss, dropping the team to 0-4 in NESCAC play.
Trying to crack the losing streak, the team next faced still-undefeated Amherst, a top competitor for the DIII National Championship. This meeting did not go much more favorably than the first clash between the teams, which ended in a 71-30 Amherst victory. This time, the Cards found a few more cracks in Amherst’s lockdown defense but were nonetheless blown out by a 79-46 margin.
Wesleyan’s next game came against Trinity, with whom they were tied for last place in the conference. Brenna Diggins 17 rose to the occasion, dropping 18 points on efficient shooting and grabbing five boards. The team shot the ball efficiently in all facets of the game on the way to a 70-46 victory. Especially key in the victory was bench play, as the Cardinals’ reserves outscored the Bantams 35-19.
The Cards certainly hoped to ride this momentum into their out-of-conference tilt with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the beginning of the game seemed promising as they quickly built up a 9-4 lead. This, however, success was fleeting, and the team trailed 38-25 at halftime. The Redbirds mounted a bit of a comeback, but when the buzzer sounded they stood on the wrong end of the 66-54 final score.
The Cardinals continued to struggle in NESCAC play with two defeats to Tufts and Bates. The Redbirds’ weakness was the middle two quarters in Medford, Mass., losing by a combined 34-16. The final score of the contest was 64 to 42, with Wes shooting 28 percent from the field and 18 percent from beyond the arc.
Alumni Gymnasium in Lewiston, Maine hosted a much closer contest, with the Bobcats besting the Cardinals 59-53. The game was tight throughout, as Wesleyan took a one-point lead heading into the final quarter before being outscored by seven in the final ten minutes. Wesleyan shot 34 percent from the field, which was just below Bates’ performance at 35 percent.
Tuesday’s home matchup against out-of-conference Johnson and Wales University was an epic. The Cards were hoping to snap their three-game losing streak, which put them four games below .500. The Wildcats stood at an impressive 16-2. A back and forth first half saw Wesleyan jump out to a 7-0 advantage before Johnson and Wales responded with a nine-point run of their own. The first half remained close, and the Cards had a 22-20 lead before a last-second three-pointer from the visitors, which gave them a one-point halftime lead. The Wildcats jumped out to a 36-26 lead in the third, but Wesleyan responded immediately with a three-pointer from Diggins and cut the lead to three points with several stops and two more buckets.
Entering the fourth, the Wildcats were only up five and the momentum seemed to be swinging Wes’s way. Unfortunately, the away team again pounced early in the quarter, pushing their lead back to ten. Undeterred, the Cards kept fighting, stringing together enough stops to cut the lead to four, and then to one after a Kaylie Williams ’16 three with just 1:38 on the clock. That score remained until the Wildcats stepped up to the free-throw line with a chance to push their lead to three. After a make and a miss, the Cards had a chance on offense to win with a three or send it to overtime with a two.
To say the least, the ensuing play was strange. Chynna Bailey ’19 drove to the lane, was fouled, and missed. After the whistle, she put the ball back up and scored. Mistakenly, the referees counted the basket and gave Bailey a free throw, which she made. Realizing their mistake, evidently, the referees negated that free throw by calling a lane violation. Still, the Cardinals came out on top of the decision with what should have been a trip to shoot two at the line. The play resulted in two points, even though only one free throw was shot. This blunder kept the score tied and pushed the game into overtime. Maybe with a chip on their shoulders after the refereeing mistake, the Wildcats dominated overtime and came away with a nine-point victory at 68-59.