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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

Crazy Eight Straight for Women's Hoop

Author: Emily Berlanstein

As it approaches tournament time, the Middlebury women's basketball team has shifted into high gear, winning eight straight games. Its goal at this point in the season is to stay focused and maintain momentum. Head Coach Noreen Pecsok has been known to quote Aristotle, "you are what you repeatedly do." Fortunately for her, it seems her players are continually putting forth a winning effort.

During February break, the Panthers traveled to New York to compete against the Hamilton College Continentals. Perhaps it was the rookies' entertainment on the bus that ignited the winning streak. Jena Siegel '04 started off the show with a rendition of "Let's Get It On," followed by "Shoop," from Karen Lee '05 and "Barbie Girl" from Elise Carlson '05. Alexis Hollinger '05, affectionately known as "Weezy," topped it all off with "I'm Too Sexy."

Inspired by her own performance, Hollinger lead the 64-43 rout of Hamilton with 15 points. Alexis Batten '04 also contributed nine points and 13 rebounds. In the non-league game, the Panthers took advantage of the opportunity to capitalize on Hamilton's mistakes, holding them to a 25 percent shooting average.

A few days later, the Panthers strove to maximize their potential against Bates College, the only conference team that defeated top-ranked Bowdoin College. In the first half, Middlebury was in control, gaining an early 11-point lead. Although the Bobcats retaliated in the second half, the Panthers were able to recover with excellent free throw shooting, the result of a great deal of practice. Kristin Hanley '03 led the team with 17 points and eight rebounds, but the scoring was certainly well rounded as Megan McCosker '02 contributed 13 points and eight rebounds and Hollinger had a double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Panthers believed that they came out strong in this contest and executed their offense successfully. The win left them hopeful of a second place ranking in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).

The following day, Middlebury kept the momentum going as they easily defeated Tufts University, 64-50. Another early lead of up to 21 points allowed the Panthers to set the tone. Despite Tuft's comeback attempt, the Panthers remained composed. Hollinger once again lead the team with 18 points and six rebounds. Hanley, also performing consistently well, contributed 15 points and seven assists.

Last week was a busy one for the Panthers, competing in two league and one non-league games.

First, the Panthers hosted Colby-Sawyer College. After once again earning an early lead, Middlebury became complacent and the Chargers took advantage with an 8-0 run that tied the game in the first half. Carrying this momentum into the second half, Colby-Sawyer came out strong, but were not prepared for the Panther's vigor and determination.

Behind Batten, who contributed 15 points on the win, and Hanley, who added 12, Middlebury went on an 18-4 run, and there was simply no turning back. Both Batten and Hanley acquired 12 rebounds, a tribute to the fierce defensive effort the Panthers put forth.

The following weekend, the Panthers once again boarded the bus, this time for Connecticut. Regardless of the lack of bus entertainment, the Panthers performed quite well on the court. Jumping out to a 33-14-halftime lead, Middlebury carried its momentum through the entire game, holding Connecticut to only 17 points in second half. Lauren Amen '02 was on fire with a career-high 21 points. Hanley added 12 and Batten nine points and 13 rebounds en route to a 71-31 victory.

The next day, the Panthers carried the level of intensity over from the Connecticut game, allowing them to take off in the second half. With a pair of threes, Middlebury went on a 10-0 run that secured the 60-54 win. Hanley scored 21 points and Batten added 15.

On Tuesday evening, the Panthers battled Clarkson, hoping to remain consistent with their performance over February vacation. Bogged down with the stress of the new semester, the team was concerned with holding themselves to the high standards set over break. Luckily, members of the team were excited and ready to show that no amount of stress could get them down.

In particular, Kate Shillo '04 had an outstanding performance on the offensive boards, and Siegel did an excellent job coming off the bench and stepping up the level of play.

In practice, the Panthers have focused on moving forward each day, becoming progressively more consistent in each game. Defense, motion offense and rebounding skills have been its main concentrations, and the Panther's hard work has definitely been reflected in game play. With Williams this Saturday and the NESCAC tournament looming in the near future, the Panthers are aware that each player will have to approach both practice and games with intensity and the desire to improve. The womens team is not to be satisfied with its recent success, rather, they intend to use the wins as motivation for perfection and continued dominance.