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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Women’s Basketball improves from last season

By Marcus Eagan

After starting this season 6-6, the Grinnell College Women’s Basketball Team has certainly improved from last season’s 3-9 start with solid play. But the team dropped to 6-8 after losing to both Coe College (51-65) on Monday, Jan. 24, and Monmouth College (54-68) on Wednesday, Jan. 26. Then, on Saturday, Jan. 29, the women fell to Lake Forest College (59-66) at home, in what many of its players considered the team’s last chance to make into the Midwest Conference playoffs.

Coach Kate Gluckman, center, meets with her team in the second half of the game against Monmouth on Wednesday night. Grinnell kept the score tied through the first half ultimately lost 54-68 – Aaron Barker

“We have a really important game Saturday, against Lake Forest,” said Kelly Clarke ’13 a few days before the game. “They’re fourth in conference, and we’re in fifth. To make it to the Midwest Conference [Tournament], we need to be fourth.”

Unfortunately the women struggled in the first half, falling behind 26 to 41 at half. Clarke eventually sparked a late-game surge with a three-pointer followed by contributions from a few other Pioneers. In the end, though, the damage from their slow start proved to be too limiting.

Clarke, who adds vital energy, a long-range jumper and ball-handling skills to the Pioneers’ back court, is not the only player who saw the Pioneers’ home contest against Lake Forest as determining whether or not the team would go on to the playoffs. Elizabeth Burnett ’13, one of the team’s playmaking centers, echoed the game’s significance shortly after the game.

“The Lake Forest game was close,” Burnett said. “Basically, we needed to win it to have a chance at making into the playoffs.”

Both players pointed to the team’s inability to play well in both halves in games they lost this season.

“When we win, we play two good halves of good basketball,” Burnett said. “The most important thing is getting out there in the first five minutes of each half and starting well.”

The problem was the same the week before.

“We played really well in the first half, and in the second half we didn’t do as well,” Burnett said.

Coincidentally, Burnett’s and Clarke’s diagnoses seemed very similar to a problem Head Coach Kate Gluckman had pointed out previously.

“We can play one really good half of basketball,” Gluckman said in an interview with the S&B last year.

Regardless of this difficulty playing two good halves, the team has improved tremendously from last season. Their main problem seems to be consistency for both halves overall and more specifically in the paint.

“[Against Monmouth] we shot really well and out-rebounded our opponent, but some games we don’t do as well,” Clarke said. “I think we’ve been shooting well as a team recently.”

The statistics reflect Clarke’s assessment. Since the team’s home win against Carroll College, when the team shot a season high 41% from the field, the team has shot an average of 33.8 % from the field. Before that game, the team shot an average of 31.4%.

Clarke, the team’s second-string point guard, gave the team more credit than two consecutive losses would typically convey. She said that a big part of why they lost was because Coe College is such a good team.

“Well, when we played Coe, they were ranked 24th in the nation, so we actually played really well against them,” Clarke said. “They usually score way more than they were able to score when we played against them.

Clarke argued that Grinnell should have beat Monmouth, who is ranked second in the Midwest Conference.

Regarding the rest of this season, Clarke made two points about ensuring success in the closing weeks of the season.

“Ever since Brianna Gallo [’11] came back, it has been really great because she gets a lot of steals, she handles ball pressure well, and she is a point guard,” Clarke said. “She is very good for our time, and she was out for several games early in the season because of an ankle injury.”

Next year the women will be without a critical component in Jessica Vaverka ’11, who will graduate this spring and led the team with 13.5 points this season. They will also lose four current sophomores for half of their junior seasons to study abroad.

“We are also losing Mal[lory] Scharf [‘11]  , and Brianna Gallo,” Burnett said. “Then we have two sophomores who will be going abroad in the fall, Kelly Clarke and Karen Gogins [‘13] in the fall, me in the spring.”

Michelle Briggs ’13, who led the team in rebounds with 8.3 per game, will return for the entire season next year. She posted a double in the game against Lake Forest last Saturday.

Burnett and Clarke still expressed optimism and excitement about next season.

“We are a much better team than we were last year and we are just trying to continue to work for the rest of the season on what we hope to do next year,” Burnett said.

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