Women’s Basketball Sets New Record with Win over Colby
By Amro El-Adle '13, Managing Sports Editor
The women’s basketball team made quick work of their first two opponents in the NCAA Tournament and has now advanced to the “Sweet 16” for the third straight season, confidence and perfect record still intact.

LeFrak Gymnasium was buzzing with the anticipation of 800 fans last Friday night as the Jeffs ushered in the first game of the NCAA Tournament against the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. But in spite of the atmosphere, the Trailblazers, in their first-ever NCAA appearance, and against the number one overall seed no less, showed just how dangerous one-game playoffs really are.

After a couple of shots by junior co-captain Sarah Leyman and sophomore Jackie Renner stoked Amherst with a 5-0 lead about two minutes into the game, MCLA hastily called for a time-out to recuperate. A few clanked jumpers and made free throws later, they had clawed back 8-6. Sophomore Caroline Stedman then took matters into her own hands, and went on a 5-0 spurt to push the margin back to 13-6. Over the next 10 minutes, Amherst’s lead would fluctuate between single and double-digits, without dropping below nine.

By the 5:09 mark, however, Amherst’s lead had shriveled to 23-17 after MCLA went on a timely 7-2 run. Amherst responded with three straight layups to extend the margin back to 29-17, but they would manage only two points in the remaining 4:10 of the first half. During that stretch, MCLA stayed aggressive, bridging the gap to 31-24, and denying Amherst a score on the final possession, in spite of the three looks the Jeffs got.

For the half, Amherst’s seven-point lead emanated almost entirely from a 22-8 edge on points in the paint. They were actually out-rebounded 23-21, and while holding MCLA to 33.3 percent shooting for the half, only shot 35.1 percent themselves. Head coach G.P. Gromacki was quick to credit the Trailblazers for a first-half well played, saying “[MCLA] played physically.”

A little more than three minutes into the second half, the Amherst lead had dwindled down to 33-28 before the Jeffs strung together one of their signature second-half runs to put the game away on a steady diet of jumpers and lay-ins. Stedman and Leyman finished with 15 points apiece, with Renner and sophomore Lem Atanga McCormick pouring in 10 points as well. As for their shooting woes, sophomore Shannon Finucane summed it up nicely, saying “No one person or team can shoot well every single game. If we are going to have an off-shooting night at least we got it over with.”

In their second round match-up against the University of Southern Maine, the Jeffs came out with a vengeance, apparently eager to make up for sub-par shooting a night earlier. In the first half against the Huskies, the Jeffs made a statement within the first few moments of the game, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in 1:11. In particular, McCormick came out with confidence abounding, as she hit her first three jump shots, including a three. A Huskies’ timeout did nothing to stem the torrent of shots, as Amherst went ahead 22-4 on another McCormick jumper with 12:22 remaining.

A Huskies 8-0 run trimmed the lead to 24-12, but they would only muster seven points in the rest of the half, as Amherst took control behind McCormick and Stedman’s shooting, as they combined to go 10-12 in the first-half and outscore the Huskies 26-19.

The second half was a much different story, with the Huskies matching Amherst’s every shot. But it was too little too late, as a 30-point deficit was simply too much to overcome, and Gromacki was free to rest his starters. McCormick had a spectacular game, with 20 points on 8-11 shooting. First-year Marcia Voigt and Leyman ended up with nine points each, with Voigt also adding eight boards. The win also marked a new program record for wins in a season, as the victory was the 29th of the season.

All season, the Jeffs adopted an “every game counts” mentality, as dubbed by Gromacki, and they are now reaping the rewards of that effort, as the will likely host their games throughout the Tournament. Since Gromacki’s arrival, the team is 50-1 in games at LeFrak. “Playing at home is very exciting for us. We love to play at home, especially when we have a lot of fans,” said Voigt. “We go in to every game with the same mentality, but playing at home is always our favorite.”

Team success has also translated into individual accolades for the players and staff, with Stedman being named NESCAC player of the year, an All-NESCAC First Team selection and one of 40 finalists for the State Farm Coaches All-America Team. Leyman and Finucane were named to the All-NESCAC Second Team, and Voigt was named the NESCAC Rookie of the Year. And for the second time in three years, Coach Gromacki was named the conference’s Coach of the Year. But in a style that has come to personify this team and their season, each of the recognized individuals took their awards in stride. “I’m going to remember this amazing season way more than any individual accolade I could receive,” said Finucane. “I have the greatest team by my side and wouldn’t want to be with anyone else going into these next four games.”

The athletic department is asking everyone on campus to take part in a “White Out” this Friday at 7 p.m., as the Jeffs will look to knock Williams College out of NCAA contention.

Issue 18, Submitted 2010-03-10 05:00:02