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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Women’s Basketball Centering Season on Guards

While the women’s basketball team has struggled to find their first win of the season, they remain positive. With a record of 0-7, the team doesn’t look the best on paper, but the women do not believe their record fully represents the quality of basketball they have been playing.

On Monday, Dec. 9 the Pioneers took on nationally ranked NAIA school Benedictine College here at home. The team kept up with the high-scoring Benedictine Ravens throughout the first-half and went into halftime down by only five at 32-37. After the Pioneers brought it within one immediately after halftime, the Ravens went on a nine-point run, extending the lead, which they did not give up for the remainder of the game. The final score was 71-57, Ravens.

Jordan Matosky ’16 drives against a Benedictine College defender. Photograph by John Brady.

Alissa Hirsh ’16 led the team in both points and rebounds, with 13 and nine, respectively. Cristal Coleman ’15 racked up 10 points, four rebounds and led the team with two blocks.

The team was hoping the Benedictine game would be a major turning point for their season.

“We’re seen as an underdog throughout the whole season … so we [went] in and saw it as an opportunity to have an upset. … We were there. We were really close,” Coleman said.

Regardless of the final score, the competitiveness of the game proved the Pioneers are capable of performing well against talented opponents.

Just two days earlier, Grinnell faced 5-1 St. Norbert, also at home. St. Norbert, undefeated in Midwest Conference play and expected to finish as one of the top teams in conference, cruised to a comfortable 80-57 victory over the Pioneers. The Pioneers faced an especially hard time scoring in the paint, with only 10 of their points coming from down low.

Their trouble in the paint was not an isolated incident; the Pioneers have been facing issues with it the entire season. Alex Neckopulos ’17, a post player for Grinnell, identified this as one of their biggest difficulties in securing a victory.

“One of the main things is that if you get it into the post it creates a lot of other things for openings. Even as a post, we’re undersized, so I know we’re not going to get a lot of points in the paint. But just being down there and getting the ball down there will help create more shots for our guards around the edges,” Neckopulos said.

Before the St. Norbert game, the team had three other conference games. Hirsh and Anne Boldt ’16 each led the team in scoring once and shared the title in the remaining game. Both Ariel Keller ’17 and Boldt earned a team high for rebounding in one of the games, while Hirsh and Neckopulos tied with a team-high six for the other.

On offense, the team has been fairly successful all season, averaging nearly 60 points per game. According to Coleman, one of the main problems the team faces is their defensive pressure and, ultimately, the amount of points they allow.

Additionally, the team confronts the difficulties that coincide with having a young team. Not only does the team have a new head coach, it is made up of more first-years than all other years combined.

“Upperclassmen are normally seen as juniors or seniors, but the upperclassmen on this basketball team right now have extended to the sophomores … we have to step up to set a standard,” Coleman said.

While the upperclassmen have improved their game to set a good example for the first-years, head coach Dana Harrold has also been adjusting to a new coaching role, as this year at Grinnell is her first time as a head coach.

Despite the slow start for the women, Harrold has been making herself at home here at Grinnell.

“She still plays basketball; she gets on the court with us and shows us, hits more shots than the players sometimes,” Coleman said.

A guard in college, Harrold fits right into Grinnell’s team, which Coleman describes as a guard-focused squad.

“I feel like the energy she brings and the guard-type mentality that she brings is really helpful for our personnel this year,” Coleman said.

Along with the new coach, the Pioneers plan to attend their first tournament of the season, and their first trip in recent years, in Pasadena, Ca. this winter break. The team will fly to California on Friday, Dec. 27 and take on California Institute of Technology and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges Dec. 30 and 31.

The team hopes the trip will provide not only a break from Iowan weather, but also a great team bonding experience.

“[I’m] so excited, so excited [to play in the tournament] … it’ll be cool to gain tournament experience, which will help us come together more as a team, as well,” Neckopulos said.

The next time you can catch the women at home is on Wednesday, Jan. 8 when they take on Knox College and the first home game the women have after winter break is against Illinois College on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

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