Nine games into Ivy League play, Cornell Women’s Basketball (8-12, 3-6 Ivy) sits at sixth place in the conference standings.
Struggling against the top half of the conference, the Red’s losses have come by an average deficit of 23.8 points. This includes a 42-point loss at Harvard (6-4) on January 22nd and a 38-point loss to a first-place Princeton (9-0) team last Friday.
The three conference victories have come against the only teams below the Red in the standings. With all three wins, the first against Dartmouth (1-9) and the second pair against Brown (1-9), the Red won by single digit margins.
One bright spot for the Red, however, has been junior point guard Shannon Mulroy. As a captain and leader of the Red’s offense, Mulroy is currently fifth in assists per game among Ivy League players with 53 total dimes (2.8 per game).
In the Red’s most recent loss to the University of Pennsylvania (4-5), Mulroy shot 80 percent from three point range. Draining four three-pointers and finishing with 16 points, Mulroy’s shooting kept the Red in the game against a high scoring Penn offense. The Red ultimately lost the contest by ten, with a final score of 61-71.
Another standout for Cornell has been senior forward Theresa Grace Mbanefo, who leads the Red in points, rebounds, and blocks. Mbanefo’s 34 blocks makes her the second best shotblocker in the Ivy League, averaging 1.9 blocks per game. On top of that, with 7.7 rebounds per game, the senior captain is a top five rebounder in the conference.
Mbanefo has been reliable game-in and game-out, but her hard work in the paint finally paid off in the Red’s 61-55 win versus Brown. Complemented by a double-double from fellow senior forward Samantha Will, Mbanefo finished the matchup with 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
With only five games remaining in conference play, Cornell would need a big push to turn things around. A great place to start was Providence, Rhode Island on Saturday, where the Red successfully completed the season sweep against the Brown Bears. Junior Guard Ania McNicholas exploded for a season-high 22 points, including five three-pointers, seven rebounds and three assists.
In her first official season, sophomore guard Kaya Ingram has worked her way into the starting lineup for the past four games, receiving more and more minutes with each matchup. In those four games, Ingram has proven herself a dynamic player, accomplishing a little bit of everything including 10 steals, 25 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
For many Cornell athletes, this year marks a return to in-person athletics and official competition, catapulting players like Ingram into leadership roles with no prior seasons under their belt. For Ingram, this season has been a learning experience that has required accountability.
“We entered sophomore year without knowing all the ins and outs of a real season, but we’re still able to lead the freshman with experience,” Ingram said.
Ingram might not have had an official season last year, but that does not mean that she did not gain valuable experiences and knowledge that have helped her be a leader to this year’s four freshmen. Ingram and her fellow sophomores Val Garcia-Martinez and Mia Beam were able to spend last year learning from the coaches and players in a uniquely intimate way, which helped them prepare for what next season might bring.
On Friday, the Red will get another chance at a season sweep as the team hosts Dartmouth in Newman Arena. After that, the Red will look for revenge as the team takes on Harvard, Penn and Yale all in the span of one week.