Normally, a distinction such as being named the No. 4 team of the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Rankings would give a team the confidence to defeat anyone in their path. This distinction doesn’t mean so much as a nice nod of encouragement to Head Coach James Seward and his basketball team.
“Yeah, it was nice to hear,” said Kaitlin Clifford, one of the team’s captains. “But we know that in order to keep that and still have respect from other teams, that we have to back it up.”
Coach Seward feels the same way.
“We didn’t play well Saturday at all,” said Seward. “We’re more or less tied with Cortland at this point, and we kind of blew our chances of winning the division regular season title with Saturday’s loss…We’re just looking to go in and win our next few games.”
The Lady Hawks are currently 12-9 in total play and 10-4 in SUNYAC competition, putting them behind SUNY Geneseo in the conference, two places below SUNY Cortland, the team they lost the conference title to last year, and one spot below SUNY Oneanta.
The team knows that at this current point in time, they’re treading on thin ice as far as standings go. After a long practice Monday night however, the Hawks are going into their next few games with hopeful confidence that they can maintain their chances at being a tournament team that poses a threat come tournament time.
“Basketball is a long season, and sometimes it becomes a little difficult to stay focused as a group and sometimes when you’re frustrated because it’s not working for you individually, you tend to lose sight of the fact that the team needs you still,” said Seward.
Individual play has been a key factor for the fourth-place SUNYAC squad as of late. This past Friday at SUNY Fredonia, Shanay Bradley was the driving force for the Hawks, clocking in 16 points and 24 rebounds in a 70-61 win for New Paltz. While the personal achievements of teammates are always smiled upon, it is clear to see that what Seward and his team want is all-around great play from every individual.
“We need to bring it every single game we play,” said Caitlin Irwin, also a team captain. “We didn’t bring anything; especially our physicality to Saturday night’s game and it was a tough loss.”
The team spent their Monday night practice not playing basketball, but discussing what they need to make better. Coach Seward said there were lots of team building exercises and that he gave the girls video for them to watch and see what they did well and see what they need to improve upon. Clifford and Irwin spent some of that time talking to their team about how they need to keep pushing with a possible championship in sight.
“After losing on Saturday, we kind of took a step back and re-evaluated ourselves and what we’re doing wrong,” said Clifford. “Me and Caitlin have been pushing the idea that we have the best ‘team’ team and when we come ready to play then no one will be able to play with us. We actually have to go out there and do the work.”
Irwin agreed with Clifford.
“We can’t just show up four out of the six days we work, we have to be there every single day,” she said. “When we all play with energy, it’s unbelievable what we can do.”
The Hawks will play at home against SUNY Brockport on Feb. 11 at 6 p.m.