The women’s basketball team held promise at the beginning this season. The season started on a very good note with two victories, but a combination of inexperience and losing Captain Jackie Browne ’16 to injury proved to be too much for the Cards to handle down the stretch. The team ended the season on an eight-game losing streak, its final two coming last weekend against its NESCAC foes from Maine, Bowdoin and Colby. A bright spot for Senior Day was forward Kaylie Williams ’16 scoring 14 points and recording nine rebounds in her final game in a Wesleyan uniform. It was a fitting way for Williams to end her season, but in the end the Cardinals couldn’t muster up enough offense against the Mules.
Two notable players whose minutes and roles have significantly increased this season are Maeve Vitale ’18 and Madeline Bledsoe ’18. They were able to contribute to a valiant effort on Senior Day for the Cards, with Bledsoe scoring six points and snagging eight rebounds while Vitale led the team in scoring with 15 on five for six shooting. The performance hinted at what the future could hold for the two underclassmen as they add one more year of experience in the NESCAC under their belt.
“I think the way this year has went really has motivated everyone to work hard this spring, fall, and summer to prepare for next season,” Bledsoe said. “We also learned a great deal about how much it takes to be successful, and even as a young team we will go into next season with a lot of game experience.”
Experience is always an important factor in determining the success of teams in the NESCAC conference. The rosters of the top teams in the conference such as Tufts and Amherst are riddled with depth and the best players are those who have a few years of conference play behind them. It will be interesting to see if Cards’ two sophomore stars can make that jump from young and talented to experienced and dominant.
So what did go wrong for the Cardinals at the end of the season? Often, they got off to slow starts that put them at a disadvantage for the rest of the game. Coming out flat off the opening tip certainly does not help a young team trying to breakthrough in such a tough division.
“One of our biggest struggles was with the way we started games,” Bledsoe said. “There were definitely many games this season that we got ourselves into deep holes. Nearly every game we would fight our way back into games. But when you’re playing good competition like we see in the NESCAC, you can’t afford to do that.”
Something the Cards did produce consistently was effort. A lot of teams might have slowed down after falling down early and struggled to regain the focus necessary to climb out of the deficit, but this team consistently bounced back and never quit, even in games they appeared to be out of. That is something that certainly bodes well for the future.
“I’m proud of how hard we worked this season,” Bledsoe said. “It was great to see how much effort we put into every single game despite how difficult the season was.”
The painful campaign still provides us with a telling story for the future. The Cards showed heart time and time again throughout season. With a talented core of young players, they certainly should be able to turn those close games from losses into wins in the future.
Bledsoe pointed to a moment that demonstrated the team’s promise.
“My favorite moment was in the third quarter in our game against Williams where we went on a huge run to to end the quarter with a 10 point lead,” she said. “Even though the game didn’t go our way, it was an important point where it was clear we can hang with any team, and its encouraging going into next season.”
Although the season’s end was disappointing, there is hope for the Cardinals’ future, and Silloway Gymnasium will remain loud and proud for the women’s basketball team.