Women's basketball advances to semis
This weekend, the Middlebury College Panthers set out to prove that they had made great strides since getting run over by Colby earlier this season, 81-60. Despite improving on their previous performance, they came up just short in this weekend’s New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) quarterfinal game against the Mules.
Second-seeded Colby didn’t dominate they way they did during the first matchup, but they still came out on top, 67-64. The game was closer than many anticipated given the history of the two teams and the disparity in ranking: Middlebury entered the game seeded seventh out of eight teams.
Rachael Mack ’12 turned in the greatest basketball performance of the weekend (that did not involve Blake Griffin and a small car). Mack scored a game-high 26 points in just 25 minutes on an efficient 6-12 performance shooting from the field.
Even more remarkable, though, was her outstanding ability to get to the free throw line and, further, to capitalize on those opportunities. The forward from Augusta, Maine converted 14 of 16 foul shots. Mack scored more points from the free throw line alone than everyone but the Panthers’ Lauren Sanchez, who scored 20 of her own.
Mack also filled the stat sheet with 12 rebounds, leading the team in that category as well. The game marked the seventh double-double of the season and the fifth time that she has led the team in both points and rebounds (the third time in the last five games). Senior guard Karlyn Adler called the performance “amazing.”
Middlebury took an early lead and held it throughout the first half, finishing the period ahead 33-28. They continued to put pressure on the Mules and maintained the five-point advantage well into the second half. The Panthers led with 5:10 to play, but Colby jumped ahead with several strong penetrating drives to grab the lead. The teams traded scores until Diana Manduca ’13 sealed the victory by nailing two free throws with 30 seconds left.
Adler credits junior Jil Vaughan’s gritty play for helping the team to victory: “I think that Jil's…hustle plays really made the difference.”
Adler emphasized that the playoff atmosphere had much to do with the fact that the game was closer than the earlier contests. “Playoffs are a whole different thing than the regular season. It's one and done, so everyone comes out with more fire. I think Middlebury did a much better job defending the perimeter and getting offensive rebounds, causing the closer score.”
The Mules’ victory over Middlebury sets up a semifinal matchup against rival Bowdoin College: a team Colby has lost to twice but over which the Mules maintain a one seed advantage. The Polar Bears are not in the national top 25, but are among the list of “other teams considered” for the poll.
Adler expects the Bowdoin matchup to be another close game, saying, “We know they'll apply a lot of pressure and play [in a] very poised [way]. We'll be ready; we're excited for another game against them.” The teams play this Saturday at 4 p.m. at Amherst College. The other semifinal matchup pairs the fourth-seeded NESCAC team, Williams College, with NESCAC titan Amherst, which is ranked second in the nation.
Mack is confident about Colby’s chances this weekend: “We have so many offensive weapons on our team that [opponents] can't shut down everyone. If we go out, play our game and [aren’t] psyched out by the name on the other team's jerseys, I think we can definitely bring home a NESCAC Championship.”