March 5, 2008

W. Cagers’ Seniors Offer Leadership

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Three years ago, the women’s basketball team finished up the 2004-05 season with a tough 67-63 loss to Brown at Newman Arena. Current senior co-captains Gretchen Gregg and Megan Hughes were part of that team, which finished the season 3-24, going 1-13 in the Ivy League. Since then, the duo has welcomed junior co-captain Moina Snyder, a transfer whose athletic eligibility ends after this season, while also ushering in a new era of Cornell women’s basketball.
The Red is currently 17-8 overall and 9-3 in the Ivy League, just one game back of defending champion Harvard. Quite a turnaround from the three-, eight-, and 12-win seasons this year’s seniors have gone through in the past, not to mention the last-place finish the class of 2008 experienced as freshmen.
“They’ve been instrumental to the growth of the program,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “In particular Megan and Gretchen — each of their four years the team has improved. Their work ethic and their great attitude have really rubbed off on the team. Moina coming in the last two years has added something special to that list of seniors, giving us a level of maturity that we haven’t had in the program.”
“I think all three of them — basketball-wise, stat-wise, but even more so off the court — have done so much for the program.”
Gregg particularly has been a perfect example of the improvement the program has undergone. After starting just 16 games spread throughout her first three seasons, averaging 15.5 minutes with four points as a .310 3-point shooter, Gregg has broken out in her senior year.[img_assist|nid=28534|title=Push ‘em back|desc=Forward Moina Snyder (11) is one of three Cornell players playing her last home game for the Red this weekend.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
She has started all 25 games this season while averaging nine points a game, good enough for second on the team. Her four rebounds per game put her at third on the team. But most impressively, Gregg is shooting .445 from 3-point range, good enough for sixth in the nation. Earlier in the season, as the team approached its first weekend series with Dartmouth and Harvard, Gregg led the nation in the category.
“I’m so proud of Gretchen because her ability has been here, and it was more of a confidence issue within herself,” Smith said. “She really worked hard last summer on gaining confidence and understanding that she is a basketball player who has a lot to offer. Something in her clicked over the summer, and I’m just proud that she was able to believe in herself and come out and have such a great senior year because she deserves it so much.”
Hughes went through the same three- and eight-win seasons with Gregg before the Red finally broke into the top half of the Ivy League last year by finishing third last year. But for Hughes, it’s been a much different ride to this year’s success.
While Gregg was able to take advantage of openings at the guard position as players graduated, Hughes has seen her playing time cut down each year with the arrival of forwards like Snyder, as well as juniors Jeomi Maduka and Shannan Scarselletta. Injuries have also slowed her, as her minutes have gone down each season. After starting 15 games and averaging 18.6 minutes as a freshman, Hughes has found a new role as a solid contributor off the bench.
“Megan is someone who has been through quite a lot, as someone who was a starter at one point in her career,” Smith said. “She may not get the same amount of minutes as a lot of people, but she’s a vital part of what we do every day and she brings a great work ethic to practice and pushes our team. She wants what’s best for this team, and it’s very refreshing as a coach to be able to have someone like that.”
Snyder, who will not graduate until after next year, rounds out this year’s group of athletic seniors, as her eligibility will end after this season. Snyder first played two seasons at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., after moving to the United States from Nice, France. At Umpqua, Snyder averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Last year, in her first season at Cornell, Snyder became a starter in just the seventh game of her career and never looked back, having started all 46 games since then. She finished last season with 9.3 ppg and 5.8 rebounds, both second on the team. Her .513 shooting percentage led the team, but more impressively, was good enough for second all-time in school history. Snyder’s place in Cornell’s history books does not end there, as her 36 blocks put her in the top-10 in school history after only one season, and her 27 blocks this year have moved her up to sixth all-time with 63.
“[Playing for Cornell] was great,” Snyder said. “It’s something that I can’t really describe more than it just being amazing. Both years were different, but both years helped me grow as a person. I wouldn’t change anything if I could.”
This year, Snyder is tied with Gregg for second on the team with nine points per game, and is again second in rebounding with 5.8 a game.
“[Playing during this two-year span] is an honor and a great opportunity,” Snyder said. “I was lucky enough to be part of a team that was winning, and building a program is something that you can be proud of, especially knowing the people that you worked with will remain a big part of your life forever — great friends, great mentors.”
“It takes a lot to go against the odds and not accept something, but realize you can change it,” Snyder continued. “There’s luck in it, and chemistry — the right people at the right time, and everybody being able and willing to put in the effort. It was a several-year process. Not just this season, but last year’s season we learned from. It’s just a great opportunity that I’m lucky to be a part of.”
The group of three outgoing players has seen the program transform tremendously over the past three years. Just three years ago, the Red finished last in the Ivy League. This season, the team has a chance to win the Ivy title heading into the final weekend.
“The commonality between those three as captains is their work ethic,” Smith said. “I think the players truly respect them for how hard they work, and even more so what they do off the court.”
“Gretchen, coming from a small town and being able to flourish in this type of environment, and Megan, with all the adversity she’s had to overcome with injuries, and Moina leaving her home earlier than most young women would in the States, have been so vital to the program. Within the academic world that they all go through, a lot of our players have seen that they’ve grown so much. These three players have grown, and on top of that they’re there for the team and they care about the program.”