On Feb. 26, SUNY New Paltz’s Women’s Basketball Team defensively held off No. 1 seed, SUNY Cortland, defeating the Red Dragons in a nail-biting, neck-to-neck game, 66-63; earning their third-straight SUNYAC Championship title.
Third-year guard Lexi Van Vorst led the scoreboard with a total of 19 points. Second-year guard/forward Brianna Fitzgerald followed with a score of 17 points and third-year guard/forward Maddie Gillis ranked third with a total of 12.
“We went into the game against Cortland really confident. Despite them being the number one seed, we did beat them just a few weeks earlier at home,” Van Vorst said. New Paltz defeated Cortland, 51-42. “We also have been playing our best basketball in the last month of the season which helped our confidence as well.”
With the game being extremely close, Van Vorst, Fitzgerald and second-year guard Jenny Walton got into some serious foul trouble. “I wasn’t really worried about fouling out because I knew Coach [Seward], trusted me and I knew I could play smart,” said Van Vorst. But in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Lady Hawks stepped up and flapped their wings.
Gillis and Fitzgerald had a huge defensive push against the hosting Red Dragons, both secured a block and helped rebound the ball nine and seven times, respectively. Third-year guard Graci Serravillo and third-year forward Victoria Venus aided the Hawks’ efforts in containing their opponents by contributing a total of three rebounds and two steals.
Walton and second-year guard/forward Abby Korzekwinski scored five and six points, respectively. Walton had one assist and Korzekwinski three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.
Although the Hawks had more points off of turnovers, 14 versus the Red Dragons’ 11, SUNY Cortland had more second chance (9-7), points off the bench (23-13) and points in the paint (32-24). New Paltz’s saving grace was the intense levels of defense, where both teams did not have any fast-break points.
The Hawks finished 22-56 from the field and 7-21 in the three-point range, but they were on fire with finishing 15-16 from the free-throw line, with a whopping 93.8%. Cortland was a little bit better in the field, hitting 22-62 shots, but they fell a bit short with finishing 4-18 behind the three-point arc.
This was New Paltz Women’s Basketball’s 18th win against SUNY Cortland. Historically, when played at Cortland’s Corey Gym, the Lady Hawks have won six times out of 30 games, averaging 55.3 points per game.
“This is my second time going to the NCAA Tournament,” said Van Vorst. “The team and I are very excited and it is a really cool experience. We think the bracket we are in is a good place for us, but we need to execute, survive and advance.”
This Friday, March 4 at 5 p.m., SUNY New Paltz Lady Hawks will face the Babson Beavers, who finished the regular season 19-7 overall, at John Long Center in Scranton, PA. If you are planning on supporting, masks are required for spectators.