Women’s Basketball Suffers Conference Losses

By Colby Morris

The women’s basketball team started 2016 by racking up bus mileage, travelling to New York City, Boston and Lewiston, Maine. The team left for break with a 3-1 record and have gone 6-4 since they returned. They currently stand at sixth place in the NESCAC with a 2-2 conference record.
After a 79-58 win over Salve Regina at Pepin Gym on Wednesday, Dec. 30, the Panthers opened the new year in the Big Apple for the Jan. 2-3 NYU Holiday Classic. The Panthers started hot with a 72-59 victory over Bridgewater State. First-year Catherine Harrison ’19 led the Panthers with a game-high 23 points, while Sarah Kaufman ‘18 added 19. In their second game against the hosts and fourth-ranked NYU, Middlebury led 34-32 at the half thanks to 13 points from Sabrina Weeks ’18 off of the bench. Ultimately, the Violets pulled ahead and held onto a narrow 70-62 loss.
The Panthers opened NESCAC play against Wesleyan at Pepin Gym on Tuesday, Jan. 8. Middlebury dominated the Cardinals from the tip, jumping out to a 23-8 lead by the end of the first quarter. Kaufman once again led the charge with a career-high 31 points on the way to a pivotal 76-59 win. Harrison carried the defense with 15 rebounds to go along with her 12 points, while sophomore guard Eileen Daley ’18 followed closely behind with 11 boards of her own. The Panthers faced a quick turn around to take on Connecticut College on Jan. 9, and fatigue ultimately held them back in a back and forth 66-53 loss. After falling behind early, Colleen Cavaney ’19 spurred a 12-0 Panthers run to give them a 25-24 lead at the half. The score remained tight until just under six minutes to play at 47-46, but the Camels pulled away down the stretch to even the Panthers’ NESCAC record at 1-1. Kaufman had a team high 17 points, while Harrison added 15 rebounds.
In a break from league action, Middlebury capitalized on a weak opponent with a 65-45 win over SUNY Postdam, holding control of the scoreboard for the whole game. Alex Huffman ’19 had a career- and game-high 16 points for the Panthers in the first of a three game road stint.
After the Jan. 12 victory over SUNY Potsdam, the Panthers took on defending league champion and 12th-ranked Tufts in Medford, Massachusetts. The Jumbos dominated the Panthers 57-37.
In a game when the Panthers needed one of their best performances of the season, they shot a dismal 21 percent from the field, 11-51, and they committed 19 turnovers, more than twice the amount the Jumbos committed.
Coach KJ Krasco called the 20 point loss “a wake-up call,” as the the team will most likely return to Medford in February for the NESCAC championship.
The next day, journeying all the way to Maine, the Panthers battled Bates 43-43 going into the fourth quarter. The final ten minutes could be a defining moment of Middlebury’s season, as they avoided slipping to a 1-3 conference start. The Panthers proved resilient, recovering nicely from their loss to Tufts with a 61-56 victory as they clawed their way back to .500 in the NESCAC. The victory against Bates was a true team win, with each starter scoring at least nine points. Kaufman led the way with 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a steal.
In the midst of Middlebury’s early January games with Elizabeth Knox ’17, the team’s only junior, injured, the underclassmen continued to shine. Highlights included Harrison, who continued her strong freshman campaign, earning NESCAC Player of the Week honors the week of Jan. 4 and a spot on the NYU Holiday All-Classic Team. She is averaging a double-double on the season with 13.5 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, and is shooting an impressive 53.5% from the field. After she shot just 16 percent, 2-12, in the Tufts loss, it became clear that a key going forward will be consistency from Harrison and other underclassmen. Kaufman anchors the team, averaging almost 17 points-per-game, and shooting an impressive 36.6 percent from beyond the arc.
The team will be back in action this Sunday, Jan. 24 when they travel to Williamstown, Mass. to take on the Ephs to try and climb above .5oo in league play.