February 29, 2008

W. Cagers Go For Big Season Sweep

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The women’s basketball team hadn’t beaten either Dartmouth or Harvard in over three years until two weekends ago, when the Red welcomed the Crimson and the Green to Newman Arena. By beating both teams, Cornell snapped seven and 11-game losing streaks to Harvard and Dartmouth, respectively. This weekend, the women will have a chance to go even further by getting a season sweep of both teams to secure its hold of the Ivy League.
Heading into the first weekend series against Harvard (15-9, 8-2 Ivy) and Dartmouth (10-14, 7-3), Cornell (17-6, 9-1) and its two opponents sat in a three-way tie for first place with identical 5-1 conference records. Dartmouth and Harvard’s only losses were to each other, while Cornell had slipped on the road against Columbia.
After beating Harvard 85-61 on the same night Dartmouth lost to Columbia, Cornell not only scored the most points it ever has under head coach Dayna Smith, but the Red also overtook sole possession of first place. They followed this up by taking care of business against the Green the next night to keep a one-game lead over the Crimson in the Ivy League.
“The last time we played them, we wanted to prove to everybody that we could beat them and we could compete with the perennial best teams in the league,” said sophomore Allie Fedorowicz. “Now we want to show that we are the best — that wasn’t a fluke two weeks ago and that we’ve come a long way and our work’s paying off.”
Now, with Harvard one game back and Dartmouth just two games off the pace, Cornell faces arguably the most important weekend in the program’s history. If the Red can beat the Green at Leede Arena and the Crimson at Lavietes Pavillion, Cornell will have at least a two-game lead over Harvard with only two games left in the season, all but guaranteeing Cornell its first Ivy League title.
“Every weekend — every game — is equally important,” said senior co-captain Gretchen Gregg. “We’ve been focusing on one game at a time. Friday night, we’re just worried about Friday night. Saturday night, we’re worried about Saturday night. We’ll take it one game at a time and do our best to take care of business each night.”
Cornell will play Dartmouth tomorrow night, hoping to improve its Ivy road record to 5-1. In the first game against the Green, the Red relied on its defense to win in a low-scoring game, the final being 50-43. Cornell held Dartmouth to just 25 percent shooting and 14 percent from 3-point range. The Green’s leading scorer, guard Koren Schram (11.3 ppg), and forward Sydney Scott were the only Dartmouth players with more than four points in the game.
On the offensive end for the Red, junior forward Jeomi Maduka led the team with 15 points, along with a game-high 10 rebounds. Gregg contributed 12 points and was one of four Red players to end the game with six rebounds.
After facing Dartmouth, the real test will come against Harvard tomorrow night. Despite beating Harvard by a 24-point margin two weeks ago, Cornell has lost in upsets on the road in the past. After beating Columbia 73-57, the Red lost to the Lions on the road, 76-59.
In the previous game against Harvard, junior guard Niki Finelli was Harvard only weapon, going 5-of-8 from 3-point territory to finish with 20 points. In a game where 48 points were scored from behind the arc, Gregg led the Red in scoring with 18 while going 4-7 from long range. Maduka registered a double-double with 16 points and a game-high 11 boards, while sophomore point guard Lauren Benson added 15 points and 7 assists.
With the Ivy League title and a trip to the Women’s NCAA Tournament possibly on the line this weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth, Cornell understands the significance of its trip to Mass. After facing the Green and the Crimson, the Red has only two games left against Penn and Princeton, two teams already out of the title hunt.
“It does mean a lot because it is competing for first place — the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams competing for first place,” Fedorowicz said. “This weekend is definitely important, and we’re definitely very excited for it.”