Cornell women’s basketball has had a tough season thus far. Plain and simple. With a combination of excessive turnovers and a slow offense, the Red (1-5) has failed to close out games. Tuesday’s matchup against Lafayette (3-3) was no different; Cornell could not hang on to an early lead and fell 59-58 when all was said and done.
Although the Red does not have the record it hoped for, the team is working toward getting better each day. One player in particular has stepped up when her team has needed her most: Sophomore Samantha Widmann. Leading the team in game highs for steals, blocked shots, rebounds and points, Widmann is proving to be one of the most versatile players on the team.
Last season, she scored just 145 points in 26 games played, and she currently has 95 points on the season through just six games. She is well on her way to passing her last season point total, with nearly twice as many points as her next highest scoring teammate. Starting all six games this season is new for Widmann, as she did not have the opportunity to start a single game during her rookie season.
“So far, I’ve had a few strong performances, and ultimately the team has been getting stronger as a unit,” Widmann said. “We push each other every day whether it be in practice or in the weight room. A big part of how I’ve played this year is also attributable to the coaches and the older teammates who worked with me last year during my freshman season.”
Head coach Dayna Smith believes Widmann has become the team’s biggest offensive threat as well as its hardest worker. She has been able to make important shots and guide the team when needed, and she is valuable on and off the court.
“This year [Widmann] understands that our team needs more scoring,” she said. “We need people who are offensive threats, and that’s exactly what she has been for us. She can be a high energy spark plug for us, and when she does that, good things happen for her [and] good things happen for our team.”
Widmann’s coach and teammates know her as someone who loves to compete. Although this year is only her second season, she has become a force to be reckoned with. And being a young player on a young team does not discourage her, it only fuels her to help the team grow together.
“Last year we had five seniors who led the team and were very experienced, whereas this year we are the second youngest team in the NCAA and are still working on finding our identity,” Widmann said. “But the more we grow together the closer we all get, and we all want to see each other succeed.”
Although individual accolades are nice, Widmann’s personal goal is to have a winning season and to be able to contribute in any way that she can. Widmann is grateful for simply having the opportunity to play with all of her teammates.
“We win together and lose together, and I wouldn’t want to be with any other group of girls,” Widmann said. “They are my home away from home.”
Looking forward to the remainder of the season, Smith is looking for her players to keep getting better each and every day. Improvement is essential, particularly with a young team that will be together for seasons to come.
“I think we’ve seen tremendous growth and improvement as a team just three weeks in,” she said. “We have a lot of games through this stretch, so it’s been hard to catch our breath. It’s been night and day since our first game, and as coaches we just hope to continue that improvement.”
Widmann and the rest of the team will look to give their home crowd a victory on Friday night against Stony Brook in Cornell’s last game before a two-week break for final exams.