Women’s Basketball Eliminated from the NCAA Tournament After Impressive Run

Loss marks the end of a historic season


Emily Wander ’21 averaged 7.2 points per game throughout the season.

For the first time in 21 years, the women’s basketball team participated in the NCAA tournament, beating John Carroll in the first round, 62-54 on March 1. Though the Panthers fell to host DeSales University (70-55) the next day, their season was one for the books.

In their first bout, the Panthers overcame John Carroll after a close four-quarter stint. Both teams went back-and-forth throughout the game, gaining the momentum and then flipping it. Middlebury came out strong in the 1st quarter, with junior Kira Waldman putting up 5 points in the first four minutes. The competition then took the lead in the second and third quarters, beginning the third quarter at 34-28. Midway through the third, the Panther team pushed back, edging out the competition going into the fourth. After senior Alex Huffman sunk a three-pointer in the last quarter, the Panthers gained control and maintained it until the final buzzer.

Middlebury went 20-57 in field goal percentage, topping John Carroll by 7 percent. The Panthers also almost doubled John Carroll’s points in the paint (30-18). Juniors Waldman and Besty Knox lead the Panthers with 15 points and three rebounds, respectively. 

Heading into the second round of the tournament, the Panthers faced DeSales University. According to junior forward Vanessa Young, the Panthers were “ready for a good game against the very fast-paced and aggressive hosts.”

Unfortunately, the Panthers were unable to keep up against the Bulldogs, falling to the hosts 70-55. DeSales had a strong start to the competition, leading by double digits by the second quarter. However, a period of Middlebury offense brought the Panthers back into striking distance, led by senior Colleen Caveney who put up 16 points throughout the course of the game. DeSales created a deficit the Panthers could not overcome. Their 70-55 win took them to the next round of the tournament, ending Middlebury’s season.

 “Although it was different from the style of play we are used to in the NESCAC, we had good moments of controlling the play of the game,” Young said. “However, we committed too many turnovers, but stayed in the game until the end, lessening the deficit in the final minutes.”

“I think it was a breakthrough season for our program,” head coach KJ Krasco said in a press conference following the game against DeSales. “This group was definitely one that set the bar for where our program wants to continue to go year in and year out, and hopefully a little further.”

 Though the season did not end the way the Panthers would have hoped, Young said was an exceptional season for many reasons.

 “Although we will never be fully satisfied by ending our season with a loss, we do have a lot to be proud of this season. Our four seniors—Colleen Caveney, Catherine Harrison, Ivy Houde and Alex Huffman—ended their first year at Middlebury [by placing] eighth in the NESCAC. They have brought this program so far and the entire team is so grateful for all they’ve done,” Young said.

Middlebury’s improvement record speaks to the seniors’ leadership. The team progressed from an eighth-place finish at the 2016 NESCAC Championship, to a fourth-place finish and an NCAA bid.

“This year we made history: we hit the 20-win mark, got an NCAA bid and won our first-round game,” Young said. “Not many people expected us to make it past the quarter finals of the NESCAC tournament, much less get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. After playing at DeSales this weekend, we confirmed what we already knew: we can play with, and beat, some of the best teams in the country. Playing in that environment taught us so much, and we only wish we had more time to experience it with our wonderful seniors.”

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