Women's Basketball: Hosting First round of NCAA tournament
This past Saturday, Feb. 27, the Colby women's basketball team defeated the Bowdoin College Polar Bears in the semi-finals of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) playoffs. Winning by a score of 75-64, the Mules improved their record to 23-3 for the year, tying the program's record for most wins in a season. With eight straight victories under their belts, the women then turned their focus toward the NESCAC championship match against the Amherst College Lord Jeffs. Sadly, the Mules came up short in the finals, losing by a score of 69-54, but the women did not leave empty-handed. The Mules' second place performance in the NESCAC tournament earned them a spot in the NCAA Division III tournament, with the women's first-round matchup to be played against Husson College on March 5.
The journey to the NCAA playoffs began when Colby's win over Bowdoin cut the defending champion's season short, leaving the Polar Bears with a final record of 20-6. Although the Bowdoin women had won eight out of the nine seasons in which a postseason system has existed, the Mules' efforts were too much for the Polar Bears to manage. Playing excellent defense, Colby held Bowdoin's top scorers to a paltry four points during the first half of play. This offensive weakness, combined with foul trouble, led the Polar Bears astray.
In addition to the strong efforts in the backcourt, the Colby women also capitalized on all their offensive opportunities. Shooting 50 percent from the field, the lady Mules were 24 for 48 in comparison to the Polar Bears who converted on only 25 of their 63 attempts. Furthermore, the Colby women took advantage of their trips to the foul line, netting 22 out of 29 chances, while Bowdoin only scored on 11 of their 20 tries.
Many Mules had standout performances in the final four, showing the consistency of the team as a whole. First-year Diana Manduca tallied 18 points to her name, with two for two shooting from three-point range and a perfect eight for eight record from the free throw line. The next highest scorer, Aarika Ritchie, contributed 15 points and also directed the flow of play with seven assists. Producing a double-double of ten points and ten rebounds, Julianne Kowalski '11 raised her career totals to 698 points and 516 rebounds, and Alison Cappelloni '10 contributed eight points, bringing her career total to 1,189 points. Despite early foul trouble, sophomore Rachael Mack rounded out the team's effort with 15 points.
Even on the heels of such an outstanding victory, the Mules couldn't pull out a win against top- ranked Amherst. With powerhouse Mack on the sidelines due to illness, the Colby women threw their best efforts onto the court, but were ultimately overwhelmed by the Lord Jeffs' offensive skill. Although their percentages from the foul line and three-point range were strong, the women only made 13 of 57 shots from the field. On the positive side, however, Cappelloni netted 14 points in the game to bring her career tally to 1,203 points, and Kowalski added 10 points, three steals, and two blocked shots to break the 700 career point mark. <br /><br /> With the game against Husson scheduled for Friday, March 5 at 7 p.m., the women will participate in the NCAA tournament for the first time. As Coach Lori Gear McBride explains, "Getting into the NCAA Tournament is a major accomplishment for any program, but as a first-time invitee, it is particularly special and meaningful for us.... [It] is a credit to the players, assistant coach Christine Clancy, and the parents who all believed and supported us this season." Thus, with that optimistic attitude, the women focus on the challenge ahead in preparation for their momentous NCAA appearance.