Women’s Basketball Sets Two Program Records
By Amro El-Adle ’13, Sports Section Editor
For the first time ever, the women’s basketball team is ranked No. 1 in D3hoops.com’s coach’s poll. The top-ranked team picked up two tough road wins en route to amending their record books, with the longest win streak in program history (19 games), the best start to a season (19-0) and the program’s first-ever win at Bowdoin College. Coupled with previously unbeaten Illinois Wesleyan’s defeat at the hands of No. 20 Carthage over the weekend, Amherst has ascended to the top spot.

The Lord Jeffs continued to march through a grueling seven-game road trip, winning at Bowdoin on their first stop over the weekend, 72-63. The teams traded buckets for much of the first half, but heading into the half, the Jeffs had pulled away 34-24 thanks to a plethora of three pointers, including three of the team’s six coming from sophomore guard Caroline Stedman, who scored 14 points in the frame.

The second half turned out to be a game of runs, as Amherst came out of the locker room on a 14-3 run, with freshman guard Marcia Voigt accounting for nine of those points. A three-point play sparked a 16-4 spurt for the Polar Bears, however, and they closed the gap to 57-48 on a layup with 8:39 to go. Bowdoin continued to stay aggressive down the stretch, as they went 16-18 from the free-throw line in the second half and finished with 31 attempts for the game, compared to only 18 for the Jeffs. But it was a whistle that ultimately cost Bowdoin, as they were called for an offensive foul with 3:27 left, which negated a three-pointer that would have cut the lead down to five. After the call, Amherst sealed the win with a 7-0 run, fueled by five clutch free throws from sophomore guard Shannon Finucane. Bowdoin’s six meaningless points in the closing minutes made this the first single-digit win for the Jeffs this season.

Stedman stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points (including 4-8 from behind the arc), six boards, five assists and three steals. Junior co-captain Jaci Daigneault finished with 12 points on 5-7 shooting, along with her six boards, Finnucane poured in 13 and Voigt had 14. Coming into the game, Amherst had been 0-9 all-time at Bowdoin’s Morrell Gymnasium.

Unlike most of their games this year, the Jeffs had trouble separating from Colby College in another road game — at least at first. Stedman again led the Jeffs in the first half, scorching the nets for 17 points in 17 minutes, on 6-9 shooting from the field. The Mules, however, refused to roll over, trimming an Amherst lead that had peaked at nine down to only two points heading into the half, 38-36.

The second half seemed the same, as the Jeffs struggled a bit with their shooting early on, and gave Colby 23 trips to the charity stripe in the half, allowing them to stay within striking distance. Sure enough, after the Amherst lead swelled to 57-46 with 9:01 left, the Mules raced back, 57-53, a few minutes later.

But that would be as close as they got, as the Jeffs’ stifling defense held the Mules to a single field goal for the rest of the game — Colby went 4-26 from the field in the second half — and the offense exploded for a 27-10 run to put the game away.

Stedman put the finishing touches on a remarkable weekend with seven rebounds, five steals, four assists and a career-high 26 points. Daigneault chipped in with 10 points, junior Kristyn Dunleavy poured in 11 and Finnucane had 14 points and five assists. This moved her into 10th place on the school’s all-time career assist leader board, with 183.

With only five games between them and a perfect regular season, the team remains fixated on the ultimate goal of a national championship: “Our focus has always been to improve each game both individually and as a team. We are striving to be at our best for the post-season,” said Stedman. And despite the discrepancy in free-throws in both road games, “[The] coaches have made sure that we always stay focused on playing our game and don’t let the referee’s calls affect us mentally,” she continued.

Amherst is tied atop the NESCAC standings with Williams at 5-0, and stands at 19-0 overall. They go for win number 20 on Friday at Bates, with tip-off scheduled for 6 p.m.

Issue 13, Submitted 2010-02-03 02:57:30