W. basketball third in NESCAC
At the time of the Echo’s last publication, Colby women’s basketball was sitting pretty with an undefeated 5-0 record, including a resounding, no-doubt win over odds-on favorite and division rival Bowdoin College.
Since then, the Mules have lost their spotless record but have still been very successful, racking up 10 wins to only five losses. Three of the losses came against New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) opponents Amherst College, Tufts University and Bowdoin, leaving Colby’s conference record at 5-3—good enough to keep pace in a five-way tie for third place. The other two losses came at the hands of the University of New England (UNE) and the University of Southern Maine (USM). While as a whole, the five losses drag down the Mules’ winning percentage, the quality of the teams to whom Colby lost is nothing short of remarkable. The NESCAC teams who topped Colby are ranked first, second and third in the conference. UNE and USM are ranked first and third in their conferences, respectively. Combined, the record of the teams who have bested Colby is 89-20, good for an outstanding .817 winning percentage. Most impressive of those losses was the Amherst defeat: a 51-50 nail-biter to the number one team in Division III.
They haven’t all been look-at-the-bright-side losses, however; during the remarkable run through their difficult schedule, the Mules have also had a great deal of success against quality teams. Notable quality wins have come over Williams College (62-56), Regis College (56-52) and Emmanuel College (56-53). Regis and Emmanuel both sit atop their respective conferences, while Williams is one of the teams tied for third with the Mules in the NESCAC. All this success and quality play has garnered the Mules national respect—while the five losses have pushed them out of the top 25, where they began the season, they still earned multiple votes for inclusion on that list, where they would be the only five-loss team.
The Mules reached this level of achievement due in large part to exceptional consistency. Of the 20 games Colby has played, the same five players have made up the starting lineup in each and every one of them: forwards Jil Vaughan ’12 and Rachael Mack ’12 and guards Aarika Richie ’12, Jacky McLaughlin ’13 and Diana Manduca ’13 have formed a formidably cohesive and experienced core. Vaughan leads the charge inside and regularly fills the stat sheet—the senior leads the team in points (13), rebounds (8.4), and blocks (1.85) per game. Richie orchestrates the passing attack with a team-high 3.7 assists per game, and Manduca leads the Mules from behind the arc with 29 three-pointers made. Mack has maintained a phenomenal .914 free-throw percentage.
On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the Mules handily defeated the University of Husson by a score of 71-43. Hopeful to build upon this strong performance with just four games remaining on the schedule, it’s crunch time for the Mules. Two of those four are non-conference games, with one at home against Husson University on Tuesday, Feb. 7 and one at Babson College next week to close out the regular season. The two NESCAC games provide Colby a valuable opportunity—both Wesleyan University and Connecticut College are engaged in the third-place dead heat, and wins would go a very long way toward improving Colby’s playoff position.