It was the final set of games for the Red women’s basketball season, and the last weekend ever for six seniors — with two contests at home, University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University visited Newman Arena for senior weekend.
On Friday night, Cornell hosted Penn, honoring the forthcoming International Women’s Day by inviting young girls from the community to watch the game and celebrate National Women and Girls in Sports Day.
The game had a slow start. Despite winning the tip-off and maintaining good possession of the ball, the Red made a show of constantly passing the ball and running out the shot clock, not attempting a shot until the buzzer sounded.
By the end of the first half, the Red was down only 15 points. However, the team’s hesitation with shooting and emphasis on passing persisted throughout the night. Penn was less hesitant, shooting three-pointers and two players amassing 16 points each, compared to Cornell who ended the night without any scorers breaking six points.
Penn ultimately topped Cornell, 67-46.
“You have to tip your hat to [Penn], they really came out and wanted to win that game…We wanted to win, but we didn’t actually execute and do the things that we needed to do to win the game,”said head coach Dayna Smith.
Smith’s demeanor remained positive, and she looked forward to the next day’s game, her last with this year’s seniors.
On Saturday, the Red celebrated six women preparing to graduate in the spring. Five had been on the team since their freshman year, while one transferred in a year later. All made a significant impact on Smith, the team and each other.
The senior class of six women is a notably large class and Smith said she was proud of the retention she was able to achieve with her dedicated seniors.
Lauren Simpson, assistant director of athletic communications, helped prepare spotlight photos and bouquets for the Red’s seniors, also presenting flowers to the two Princeton seniors.
Families and friends stood by supporting the six girls who had helped the Red qualify for its first ever Ivy League tournament in the 2018-2019 season.
On seniors’ departure, Smith said, “They were a big part on a daily basis. They came to practice every day, they worked hard…They’re going to be very difficult to replace.”
The five seniors that began their journey with the Red their freshman year started the game — Dylan Higgins, Danielle Jorgenson, Reena Olsen, Stephanie Umeh and Samantha Widmann. Laura Bagwell-Katalinich, the final senior, was the first substitution made for the Red.
At the start of the game, the energy of the players and crowd were high despite the knowledge that they were taking on Princeton, which is ranked No. 21 in the NCAA and on a 22-game winning streak.
Early on, the game was close. Unlike the night before, the Red took shots rather than hesitating and passing.
By the second period, senior captain Laura Bagwell-Katalinich had scored six points, the exact number of points that the highest scorers for the team reached the night before. By the end of the night, Bagwell-Katalinich would break 14 total points scored, Widmann close behind with 13 points.
All of the points for the Red came solely from the seniors, showing their tenacity and control of the game. Nonetheless, Princeton was successful in edging out the Red. By the third period, it seemed as if Cornell had lost steam — Princeton maintained a 19-point lead.
Two three-pointers came from Jorgenson and Widmann in the final period of the contest, but it was not enough to topple the lead that Princeton had secured for themselves.
In the last substitutions of the game, Smith hugged each of the seniors returning to the bench for good to a standing ovation from the crowd.
“The team is so special to me,”Olsen said. “The sense of family we have established on the team is something I would never want to give up.”
It was a 19 point loss for the Red, 69-50, but the team fought hard against No 21. Princeton. Spirits were high, and the attendees stood tall, cheering when the team made its way to the locker room.