The final farewell came earlier than expected for the New Paltz Women’s Basketball team this season.
After a come-from-behind victory against SUNY Oswego on Feb. 22, the third-seeded Hawks would eventually lose to the No. 2 seed, SUNY Oneonta, at the tournament in SUNY Geneseo. Oneonta eventually lost the championship to the host school.
Despite a season that saw a 16-11 record and a 13-5 conference record, the team understands that the loss sustained a couple of weeks ago is due to one of the issues they have had all season.
“Honestly, it’s typical of how our whole season went,” said Head Coach James Seward. “We played very well for a portion of the game but were not able to sustain that level of play throughout…It was kind of our M.O. all year, unfortunately.”
During their last game, the Lady Hawks came out strong with a six-point lead but were unable to maintain that lead once Oneonta came back with a 7-0 scoring rally. The Hawks gained the lead right after that, but the Red Dragons eventually came back and kept the lead for the rest of the game.
“It definitely ended earlier than we had hoped it would,” said third-year Captain Kaitlin Clifford. “I think we definitely had a good season, and it’s just unfortunate that it didn’t end the way that we wanted it to.”
Despite the early end to the season, the Lady Hawks say they have definitely exceeded some expectations they had originally set at the beginning of the season. However, they also know that they failed to reach some of their goals as well.
“Going into the season, we had graduated six kids who had been a big part of our team for the past four years,” said Seward. “We knew that we had a lot of talented players coming back but we weren’t sure how they were going to fit into a larger role or a different role than they had played in the past.”
Members of the team had strong individual seasons. Maliqua Fisher and Alex McCullough were rewarded for their performances by lauding SUNYAC second and third team honors, respectively. Clifford also mentioned teammate Zoe Cohen as having an impressive season.
“Zoe definitely stood out,” said Clifford. “She was definitely a big part of our performance this year and she gave us a big leg up during a lot of our games.”
As a whole, Seward said he felt some girls made very strong individual efforts that definitely exceeded his expectations as a coach, but that there were also players who didn’t meet those standards that he had originally set. He believes that this is what adds up to the inconsistency the team had throughout the entire season and this is the belief they will take into next season.
“Our number one goal to improve upon for the upcoming season is being able to play a full 40 minutes,” said Seward. “We have these games where there are these flashes of extreme brilliance on the court that are eventually lost. Next season we need to make sure that we’re going out there and playing those full two halves.”
Next season will mark the final season for many of the team’s key players. Like their 2009-10 season they will be graduating six girls, and these players are also very important pieces of the team’s makeup. This gives team members a new urgency to go out and claim a conference title for the program.
“It’s tough to think that next season will be the last,” said Clifford. “We want the younger girls to be just as hungry for a championship as we are and we really want to get there.”
Seward is also looking towards next season as being the last season for some of his most valuable players, and hoping that they are already thinking about the possible end product of their college careers.
“I hope they have an urgency to win,” said Seward. “We talked about it on the bus ride home with the seniors-to-be about the fact that the light at the end of the tunnel is coming…For the lucky ones, they recognize that before it’s too late for them to do something about that. I’m trying to impress upon them that they have a whole summer to go out there and improve so that when next year comes, it will be the best season they can possibly put out. Hopefully they take that seriously and will have a great offseason.”