Women’s hoop’s dreams ended by Bowdoin, 57-46

This season has been a trying one for women’s basketball. The beginning of the season was marked by mediocrity; after seven games, the Ephwomen had an unimpressive record of 4-3. But, following a 100-48 thrashing of Skidmore, which avenged last year’s devastating loss to the Thoroughbreds, the Ephwomen caught fire and a nine-game winning streak ensued. The streak was capped by an exciting double-digit win over the Lady Jeffs at Amherst – their second win over the ‘Herst this season – and in January the Ephwomen were the team to beat in the NESCAC.

On Jan. 31, the Ephwomen had a chance to close out the month undefeated, facing only a challenge from Bowdoin. Bowdoin is a perennial power in the NESCAC and has won the title three years in a row. The Ephwomen did not have history on their side as they journeyed up to Maine, as Head Coach Pat Manning had never posted a victory in the Pine Tree State. On Jan. 31, history remained the same as Bowdoin handed the Ephwomen their only loss of the month.

The loss to Bowdoin put the Ephwomen into a funk which they would remain in until the onset of the NESCAC Tournament. The Ephwomen ended their season as it began – in a state of mediocrity – finishing their season with four wins and two losses to complete a decent, but unimposing 17-6 record.

The Ephwomen were granted the fifth seed and faced fourth-seeded Colby in the NESCAC quarterfinal. Earlier in the season, the Ephwomen made the trip up to the Mules’ home court and, as history would suggest, Maine once again defeated them. The underdog in the first round of the NESCAC tourney, they had to pack their bags and make the trip back into that unforgiving state.

No member of this team had ever had a semblance of a victory in Maine, but miraculously the Ephwomen fought hard and employed their defense to perfection en route to an epic 59-56 victory over the Mules. The Ephwomen thus advanced into the semifinals and again came up against a school situated in Maine: the number one-seed Bowdoin.

But the results in the second round were not as joyful as in the first. The Ephwomen concluded their season on 57-46 loss to the Polar Bears.

This season the Polar Bears are not merely a NESCAC power, they are a nationally ranked squad. The Ephwomen played a tough game, only trailing by six at the end of the first half and tying the game at 36 in the second half, but unfortunately they could not keep pace with an impressive Polar Bear team.

“I’m disappointed with the result, obviously,” Manning said, “but I’m very pleased with our performance. It was the best we’ve played Bowdoin in three years.”

Bowdoin advanced to the NESCAC final and defeated Bates to win their third straight conference championship.

The likely MVP of the NESCAC, senior Kristi Royer posted an impressive all-around game that spelled defeat for Williams. Royer led all players in points (25 on 9-of-16 shooting), rebounds (11 including four offensive boards), and also picked up three steals and a block.

Kate Stumpo ’03 played strong in her final game wearing a Williams uniform. The senior, who earlier this season reached the 1,000-point milestone, dropped in 13 points to lead the Ephwomen. Abi Jackson ’03 and Amy Geant ’03 were the only Ephwomen to make more than half their shots, finishing with 10 and six points, respectively. As a team, the Ephwomen shot an anemic 29.5 percent on 18-of-61 shooting which included a dismal 3-of-15 performance from beyond the arc.

The performance of Melissa Skeffington ’03 in her last game for the Ephwomen did not accurately represent the success she brought to the team earlier in the season. Skeffington was named Player of the Week by nescac.com in January and hit all the clutch shots in victories over other NESCAC foes, including two crucial treys against arch-nemesis Amherst. Skeffington finished the night with eight points and shot 2-of-10 from 3-point territory.

Even when victory looked most elusive for the senior quartet of Jackson, Geant, Skeffington and Stumpo, the four never succumbed. They brought an air of competitiveness and dedication to the team and their presence will be missed next year.

“It’s been four great years with them,” Manning said. “It’s really tough to see them go because they’re all such hard workers and fierce competitors. I’m really going to miss each one of them.”