Women’s basketball is back with a vengeance. After going 17-8 during the regular season last year, the Cardinals are primed for success in 2018. Last year, the team advanced to the NESCAC Tournament semifinals for the first time since the 2007-08 season and the fifth time in school history. They eventually lost to perennial stalwart and No. 1 ranked Amherst. The team will sorely miss class of ’18 grads Kadijah Mathews, Maeve Vitale, and Maddie Bledsoe, who helped the team lead their best campaign since 10 years prior. Last year, the Cardinals were seeded the highest in the NESCAC Tournament since 2007-2008 and also led the conference in rebounds, with 46.5 per game. They also finished second in scoring and assists with 68.5 points per game and 14.5 assists per game. The team has grown even more through this offseason. Senior forward Bledsoe absolutely dominated last season, leading the Cardinals both on the court and off. Unfortunately, Bledsoe graduated, but don’t count out the Cardinals just yet.
Bouncing back from tough losses is what makes a great team even better. In professional sports, teams that make it deep into the playoffs and lose are even more likely to come back the next season for revenge. Quite often we see a team suffer a heartbreaking loss that motivates them throughout the offseason to get back to where they were—and even further. Couple this desire to win with the experience gained from playoff basketball, and the Cardinals are a dangerous team to watch this winter. Further, the Red and Black have absolutely been working hard this offseason.
Emma Roush ’21, Heidi Scarth ’19 and Ava Tompkins ’19 will play integral roles this year, as the team needs someone to step up and recreate Bledsoe’s production from last season.
The highlight of last season was the Cardinals’ quarterfinal win over their major rival, Middlebury College. The Panthers hosted the Cards during regular season play last year, which resulted in a disappointing loss for Wesleyan. During the playoff game, the Panthers seemed to constantly be one shot from pulling away. Middlebury led Wesleyan in almost every statistical category: rebounds, turnovers, and free-throw percentage. But that was not enough. The Cards shot an impressive 46.3 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc, which proved to be just what they needed in order to win. The result was a thrilling victory, which will undoubtedly fuel the team this season.
And it is not just the upperclassmen who expect to lead the Cardinals through their revenge season.
The Little Three matchups promise entertainment and nail-biting finishes. The Cardinals host Williams on Friday, Jan. 4 and are at Amherst on Saturday, Jan. 12. But the Cardinals will really be looking for revenge when they host Amherst on Monday, Jan. 21 in Silloway Gymnasium.
At the helm for the Birds is head coach Kate Mullen, who is entering her 27th year as head coach of the program. While Mullen experienced a period of success between 2000-2009, her program struggled mightily from 2010 until last year. The 2017-2018 marked her first NESCAC semifinal appearance in 10 years.
After last year’s brief playoff run, the Cards think of themselves as an experienced team that’s ready to take back the Little Three. This year should yield some interesting, successful results.
Nick Keating can be reached at email@example.com.