January 23, 2008

W. Cagers Hit Stride Heading into Ivy Play

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After the first game of Ivy League play, the women’s basketball team is the proud owner of a 9-5 record, representing a complete turnaround from where the team stood at this point last season. Only a year ago, the Red was 5-9 and still reeling from a seven-game losing streak during non-conference play.
This year’s squad, ranked second in the Ivy League pre-season media poll, is expected to finish with a better record than last year’s team, which finished the season 12-15. According to head coach Dayna Smith, the difference between last year’s squad and this year’s can be summed up in one word.
“Experience,” Smith said. “We’ve been playing quite a few young players and they’re growing and maturing more as basketball players. We’ve just gotten more experience and become better basketball players and more familiar with each other and what we can accomplish.”
That familiarity allows players to feel more comfortable moving the ball around the court before taking the shot. This enhanced team effort leads to better shot selection and fewer forced shots.
“We were a young team last year and I think that everyone has really come together and we’re playing especially well this year as a team,” said sophomore Virginia McMunigal. “We’re very unselfish with the ball and we’re making much better decisions. I think a lot of it does have to do with the maturity of the team.”
[img_assist|nid=26780|title=Eyes on the prize|desc=Sophomore point gaurd Lauren Benson has paced the Red offense this year with 5.6 assists per game.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]The sophomore also cited the example set by the older, more experienced players as a guiding force.
“Everyone has risen to the occasion,” McMunigal said. “I think all the upperclassmen have definitely matured this year and have pushed the program in a great direction.”
The development of players like sophomore point guard Lauren Benson is made clear by simply looking at the numbers. So far this season, Benson is averaging 6.6 points per game, up from 4.6 last season. With 79 assists through the team’s first 14 games, she has already eclipsed her total from last season (72).
Junior forward Jeomi Maduka is leading the team in scoring for the third consecutive season, averaging 14.3 points per game. While Maduka was the only Red player whose scoring average reached double digits last season, junior Kayleen Fitzsimmons’ 10.5 points per game during the 2007-08 campaign have proven her worth as another offensive option for the Red. Junior Moina Snyder is also contributing 9.3 points per game to go with her 6.6 rebounds.
The Red’s 8-5 finish after the end of non-conference play merits qualification — those five defeats have all been to strong, non-conference opponents.
“The five losses we have so far this season have all come against teams with 11 or 12 wins,” Smith said.
The Red has competed well and responded to challenges throughout the first half of the season, allowing the team to head into Ivy League play feeling confident that it has played its best basketball against some elite teams. Smith knows that the team’s confidence will help them in league play, but doesn’t expect games against other teams to be a cakewalk.
“We’re not just excited with a win, we’ve set an expectation for ourselves and a standard of play that we’re challenging ourselves to meet,” Smith said.