Women’s basketball (14-3, 2-2 in the NESCAC) started its season with a nine-game winning streak and added to their win total last Sunday with a 74-66 win against Colby. The victory was a welcomed boost for Williams, then ranked No. 17 in the USA Today Div. III Coaches rankings, per last Saturday’s 59-50 fall against Bowdoin.
Last Sunday’s game against Colby started with Williams falling behind early, sinking into an eight-point deficit within the first five minutes of the game. Down by twelve with 8:44 left in the half, co-captain Ellen Cook ’14 and Lauren McCall ’17 worked together to score 17 combined points in the remaining minutes of the half. With seconds to go before halftime, Amanni Fernandez ’18 sank a jump shot to tie the game at 37-37, giving the Ephs momentum as they went into the second half.
Neither team could get much separation at the beginning of the second half until Cook sank a pair of three-pointers to put the Ephs up by six. This would be the closest the Mules would get, and co-captain Kellie Macdonald ’15 sank two key jump shots with under five minutes to go to push the Ephs’ lead to double digits. Williams made enough free throws in the closing minutes to hold on to a 74-66 win against one of its conference foes.
In last Saturday’s game against No. 25 Bowdoin, both teams played stifling defense to keep the game close. McCall sank a three-pointer with 3:20 left in the first half to put the Ephs up 29-25, which would be the largest lead of the half for either team.
Williams blanked Bowdoin over the first five minutes of the second half and baskets by Fernandez and Macdonald put the women up by six. However, a 13-2 run by the Polar Bears turned the tables and left the Ephs trying to hang on. Down 51-50 with four minutes to go, the Ephs tried to rally for a win. A pair of Bowdoin baskets late in the game forced Williams to foul, and Bowdoin made its shots to come away with a 59-50 win over Williams.
On Jan. 13, Williams played Castleton State and quickly amassed a double-digit lead. In the process, McCall accumulated nine of her 25 points, while Kristin Fechtelkotter ’18 also came off the bench to add a pair of baskets. After entering halftime with a 14-point lead, the Ephs outscored the Spartans 19-2 in the opening five minutes of the second half to all but seal a victory. Lydia Zaleski ’18 scored double-digit points for the first time as an Eph, while co-captains Macdonald and Cook combined for 27 points.
Williams travelled to face an Amherst team on Jan. 10 that had gone over 100 games without losing at home. The Ephs struggled early; by the time they put together consecutive baskets, they were down by 15. Although the Ephs shrank a 24-point deficit back to a 46-29 score, it was not enough to put a dent in the unbeaten Jeffs’ lead. Williams fell 77-51 in its first conference loss of the season.
The women faced Trinity on Jan. 9 in their conference opener. An 8-0 run in the middle of the first half, capped with two key baskets by Devon Caveney ’17, separated the teams and gave the Ephs an eight-point lead. Cook and Mary-Kate O’Brien ’16 pushed the margin to 10 just before the half, and Williams closed the door with a 9-2 run to start the second half, going on to win 71-53.
On Jan. 5, Williams notched a well-deserved 78-59 victory against the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth to bring their record to 10-1. The Ephs experienced their first loss in the Puerto Rico Shootout, making only 22.2 percent of their shots in a 51-40 loss to Eastern University. Williams rebounded with a 64-57 win against Lynchburg the next day.
Williams faced Wesleyan on Dec. 6 in a non-conference tilt for its final home game of 2014. While the teams remained close in the first half, the Ephs eked out a seven-point lead at halftime. McCall and Oge Uwanaka ’16 led the way for Williams in the second half with 11 points each, bringing the Ephs to a 77-59 victory.
During the women’s 9-0 start, their biggest scare was a 50-45 home win against Skidmore on Dec. 2. Cook closed out her 23-point game with a basket to put the Ephs up by three with 39 seconds to go and nailed two free throws with 11 seconds left to seal the game.
In November, the women defeated Worcester St., Babson and Springfield in their home openers before winning against Eastern Conn. St. on the road. Williams will get a chance to redeem themselves against Amherst at home today at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Williams will face Hamilton at 3 p.m. in their last home game of the month.
Looking back on the season thus far, the team is confident about its progress and excited for what lies ahead. “Our team worked very hard all fall on the court and in the weight room to prepare for the season and I think that showed in our first nine games,” Macdonald said. “Amherst and Bowdoin are two very good teams and I think losing to them showed us that we need to raise our level of play, especially in NESCAC games where the stakes are high.”