Despite a slow start to this season, the New Paltz Women’s Basketball team made strides to catch up and regain their footing in game-play leading up to their 2012 State University of New York Athletic Conference match up against SUNY Oneonta on Friday.
Though the first four games of the season left the team with a string of November losses, the fifth game against Stevens Institute of Technology provided the Lady Hawks with a 62-50 win.
The Stevens win provided the team with a confidence boost after the early season’s struggle, allowing them to pick up steam for the remainder of the season. The Jan. 4 match against Eastern Connecticut opened the floodgates as the team gained momentum with a six-game winning streak.
Despite a 62-51 loss against conference rival SUNY Fredonia on Jan. 28, the team tallied nine consecutive wins throughout February.
When it came down to the SUNYAC tournament and the Oneonta game, the team lost in overtime 66-63. The two teams have played one another in the tournament semifinals for the last three years with Oneonta taking the past two postseason matches. The Hawks were the No. 2 seed for the match against the No. 3 seed Red Dragons.
Head Coach James Seward said the same tenacity that fueled the season’s strong finish allowed the team to make a 17 point comeback before their eventual loss in overtime at Friday’s game.
“We got off to a slow start, and that, along with missing 13 free throws and some untimely turnovers, ultimately doomed us,” Seward said.
Third-year forward and SUNYAC All-Conference Third Team selection Alex McCullough said that although the team’s hearts and minds were in the game, their shots were not falling and they were not getting the right calls from the referees.
With 13 points, two blocks and two rebounds in the Friday night game, McCullough has the program record for blocked shots with 105 in her career thus far.
In the second half, New Paltz came to a 34-20 lead that was able to force overtime. Missed free throws from third-year guard Maliqua Fisher and missed jump shots from McCullough allowed Oneonta to take the game and continue on to win the SUNYAC Conference title after defeating Buffalo State 50-41.
Scores aside, Seward said he was proud of the comeback his team made and the gameplay allowed them to take the lead late in regulation before the eventual overtime loss.
“We still had numerous shots at both the end of regulation and in the overtime that would have won it for us, but, unfortunately, those shots did not fall for us,” Seward said.
McCullough said she was proud of the way the team played despite the outcome of the game.
Fourth-year Captain Kaitlin Clifford said the team had high expectations and the goal of taking the tournament and continuing on to NCAA play.
“For six of us, this was the last SUNYAC tournament we would ever play in,” Clifford said. “We didn’t expect Friday to be our last game.”