c/o Hannah Docktor (tufts)

c/o Hannah Docktor (tufts)

Wesleyan women’s basketball entered this season with high hopes to improve on a disappointing 2022-23 season. With a strong recruiting class and great development, they looked to take another step forward in their growth and success.

Alli Jones ’27 spoke on the team’s off-season approach. 

“We ran all the time, we did our run test at least twice a week,” Jones said. “We were conditioning a lot. It was just a very hard pre-season, very intense competition and pickup. So I think that kind of set the tone that this season was going to be a really serious season.”

The Cardinals kicked off the season with a bang, securing victories in four of their first five games and boasting an impressive +151 point differential. In their season opener against Rosemont College, where they won 102–35 (a season-high), 12 Cardinals scored with the team, recording assists on 31 of their 42 made field goals.

The Red and Black suffered losses to Amherst and Albertus Magnus College but bounced back with a decisive 70–62 victory over Williams. The Cardinals led most of the game but found themselves up only four points with two minutes remaining. The team refocused and played their best defensive stretch of the season, holding Williams without a point in the last two minutes. 

c/o Cat Palmer

c/o Cat Palmer

Captain Maggie Lee ’23 MA ’24 considered the Williams game a show of strong determination from the Cards.

“It sounds cliché, but we just really wanted to beat Williams,” Lee said. “It’s been a while since we have—a couple of years at least. That’s what really kept us in and kept us focused. We’re always talking to each other on the court and just having each other’s backs.”

The Cards had 10 days off before traveling to St. Petersburg, Florida, where they played Russell Sage College and Rhodes College. 

In the front end of their back-to-back, the Red and Black took care of business, defeating Russell Sage 72–49 in a game where Tori DaCosta ’25 scored 18 points in only 23 minutes.

Their next game was against Rhodes, whom the Cards expected to be stiffer competition. The Cardinals scored 43 first-half points en route to a 72–62 victory. It marked the fourth straight game where the Cardinals eclipsed 70 points; Olivia Quinn ’26 led the way with 18 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.

Quinn spoke on how important this trip was to the team’s season.

“It was so fun,” Quinn said. “I’m so grateful we got to do that with this team. We drove around in these white vans, and that was just really fun. And we had dinner and lunch together, and then to win the two games on top of it was really just the icing on the cake.”

The Cardinals would not play another game for two and a half weeks, but the team remained on campus for much of this time, continuing practices, spending quality time together, and having movie nights.

Felicia Fongemie ’27 talked about the winter break bonding.

“Every single day, we had an activity plan,” Fongemie said. “It was really fun. We always went over to one of our captain’s houses. We watched movies together and had meals together. That definitely brought us closer.”

The Cardinals returned to action with a tough road loss to Colby but bounced back with a thrilling win over Coast Guard. The Cardinals led by 18 in the third quarter, but the Bears fought back, tying the game at the end of the third quarter and taking a 67–68 lead with 13 seconds remaining. The Cards did not waver, with Jones hitting a game-winning putback jumper with 1.6 seconds left to give the Cardinals a statement 69–68 win.

“[Head] coach [Kate Mullen] drew up this play that she always runs for me,” Fongemie said. “And it went around the rim, but Alli Jones—the rebounding machine—picked it up, threw it back in. I mean, those ones, that’s what makes me love basketball. Those types of wins. That gives you the chills.”

Lee, who hit six 3s against Coast Guard, talked about what went into their victory over Coast Guard.

“I remember we lost to them pretty badly last year,” Lee said. “This year, we tried to not take this too lightly. They work out probably four times a day. So our identity was fast breaks, but their identity was also fast breaks. Trying to play a team that also is fast-paced and energetic was exhausting. So I think we really tried to focus on our defense there.”

The Cardinals kept their momentum going as they gathered their first NESCAC win with a 68–50 home victory over Conn. College. Alli Jones showed out scoring 12 points to go along with a freshman school record 20 rebounds.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals hit a road bump, losing six of their next seven games. They were close, though, with the Red and Black holding halftime leads in three of the seven games and being within three points at the break in two of the others.

Quinn talked about what the team can do going forward to make sure close losses turn into wins.

“The thing we can really take away from it is that we can beat those teams,” Quinn said. “At Amherst, we had like a 10-point lead for some of the games. So I think that shows us that we can do it. We just have to stay composed through them. So I think there’s hope. I feel like for next year, [remember it was] close at Amherst last year [and then] let’s finish it and win this year.”

The Red and Black turned their attention towards Tufts and Bates for the last two games of their season. Despite being in a slump and playing two quality opponents, the team was not discouraged.

“That whole week leading up to Tufts, I think it was the best scouting report that we’d had all season,” Jones said. “Our coaches really prepared us for the game. I feel like [when] we went into the game, there were no surprises. We knew their plays.”

The first quarter was a back-and-forth offensive battle, with the two teams combining for 40 points and six lead changes. Fongemie led the way with 12 of her career-high 28 points coming in the first quarter. The Cardinals’ defense stepped up in the second quarter, holding the Jumbos to seven points compared to their 16. The Red and Black kept their foot on the gas, scoring 19 third-quarter points to take a 12-point lead into the final quarter. In the fourth, the Jumbos got some momentum going as they used a 6–0 run to bring the deficit to 6, but the Cards answered every Tufts push with a silencing bucket. The team closed the game out in the fourth quarter to give them their first win over Tufts in 18. Wesleyan’s perimeter defense and 3-point shooting were the winners of the day, as they held Tufts to 13% from 3 and forced 19 turnovers while making 42% of their own long balls.

Tufts was out of the way, but the job was not finished. Less than 24 hours later, the Cards were back for Senior Night in Silloway Gymnasium to take on No. 25 Bates, who stood between them and a spot in the NESCAC playoffs. The first half, like the Tufts game, was back-and-forth as neither team could get an edge and Wesleyan went into the break down by three. The third quarter was a different story, however, as the Bobcats used an 11–2 run to take a 12-point lead midway through the quarter. Although the Cards were able to get their deficit down to nine in the fourth, they never got within total striking distance and fell to the Bobcats 56–71, ending their season and playoff hopes.

The 2023-24 season was not what the Cardinals hoped for, as they finished with an overall record of 11–11 and went 2–8 within the NESCAC, but that does not diminish the team’s excitement for the future. Wesleyan had the fourth-highest points per game in the NESCAC this season as they cashed in on their fast play style, making them one of the more exciting offensive teams to watch. They also finished second in 3-point percentage and held their opponents to second-lowest percentage in the league. This is a testament to their 3-and-D (three-pointers and perimeter defense), which helped secure the win against Tufts. Fongemie led the team in scoring as a freshman, a feat that has not been accomplished in the 17 seasons for which Wesleyan athletics keeps data. She and the underclassmen will all look to improve and take on larger roles in what will be an exciting 2024–25 campaign. There’s a lot for the Cardinals to look forward to.

“This team is going to be amazing,” Lee said. “I see so much potential. I’m kind of jealous [since] I’m leaving. But I think Olivia and Felicia are going to be phenomenal scorers for us. But then you also have Tori who has a lot of experience. They just have to work together and be cohesive. The more experience that the younger girls get, the better they’re going to be.”

Sam Weitzman-Kurker can be reached at sweitzmankur@wesleyan.edu.

Ethan Lee can be reached at ejlee@wesleyan.edu.