During a weekend that determined the final spot in the inaugural Ivy League tournament, the Cornell women’s basketball team fell just short, splitting its last two games against Ivy League rivals Yale and Brown.
“It’s not the ending that any of us seniors wanted for the end of our careers,” said senior Nicholle Aston. “[However] just looking back on my career, we’re very proud and really couldn’t have done anything better.”
Cornell (16-11, 7-7 Ivy) secured a double-digit win over Yale on Friday but could not get the job done against Brown with everything on the line on Saturday.
The Red’s final Ivy League record placed the team in a tie for fourth place with Brown. However, Brown’s 2-0 season record against Cornell awarded the Bears the tiebreaker for the fourth and final spot in the Ivy League tournament.
“We felt like we could finish in the top four, which we did but just lost the tiebreaker,” said head coach Dayna Smith. “The season wasn’t a disappointment, but our expectations were high, and we just didn’t meet them.”
Cornell certainly played like a team desperate to secure the last Ivy League tournament spot in its Friday matchup against Yale. The team began the game on a 20-3 run and never looked back, leading wire to wire in its 59-49 win.
The Red put on an impressive defensive performance as well, holding Yale without a field goal for the first 14:56 of the game. Yale ended the game shooting just 25 percent from the field and 26 percent from three-point range.
“It was a great first quarter, really the first 15 minutes, to open up the game,” Smith said. “We worked hard to make them take poor shots. I think we buckled down on their top scorers and finished their possessions with rebounds which fueled our break.”
Cornell began its Saturday matchup against Brown in much the same fashion. Despite shooting only 30 percent from the field in the first half, the Red headed into halftime down by only four points.
However, a mixture of poor shooting and an offensive explosion from Brown’s Mehta Shayna in the following quarter blew the game wide open. Cornell shot a disappointing 27 percent from the field and and allowed Shayna to score nine of her 29 points in the pivotal third quarter.
“I think that third quarter run that they had really just got us out of our rhythm,” Aston said. “They definitely built up their intensity and forced us into some bad shots.”
As the final buzzer sounded to finish off the team’s 67-46 loss against the Bears, the Red’s postseason chances were officially over.
While the loss to Brown was certainly disappointing, the Red was able to take some positives by reflecting on record milestones accomplished this season.
After her weekend performances, all-time leading scorer senior Nia Marshall added to her tally to finish her career at 1,685 points. Marshall also finished the season with 414 points, her record third 400 point season since arriving in Ithaca.
In addition, the class of 2017’s overall 59 wins have made the class the most successful in program history.
“We weren’t ready for the season to be over,” Smith said. “[However] we talked about the accomplishments we made this year and just thanked the seniors for everything they’ve done.”
Looking ahead into next season, much remains uncertain. Among the five seniors, the graduating class logged in an average of 28.9 minutes a game. The class also collectively accounted for 48.4 points for a team that averaged 62.2 points per game.
“It’s going to be an opportunity for a lot of people to earn playing time. Roles are going to be changing. It’s going to be something new and something different.” Smith said.
However, while the Red will certainly have to consider changing roles next season, the team’s current focus undoubtedly lies with the emotional sendoff for its senior class.
“Cornell’s been everything to me, and women’s basketball has been a huge part of that,” Aston said. “Once in the family, always part of the family.”