Despite tough losses, playoff berth is still within reach

By Daniel Kerwin

Coming off from two agonizing losses against St. Olaf and St. Benedict, the women’s basketball team is down, but not out. With just three games remaining, the team is facing an uphill struggle to make the playoffs, but if we learned anything from the Colorado Rockies last year, the feat is far from impossible.”We still have aspirations of making the playoffs,” Eartha Bell ’10 said.

Macalester is currently two games behind Hamline for the final playoff spot. If the Scots can win at least one of its next two games, coupled with Hamline losing both of its next two, the two teams would meet on the final day of the season to determine which of the two makes the playoffs. If both teams finish the season tied, there would be a tiebreaker.

“On any given day anything can happen,” Maddy Emanuel ’11 said.

The team was dealt a blow during Saturday’s loss to St. Olaf when Danielle Johnson ’10 tore her ACL in her right knee. Team captain Elise Pagel ’09 tore her ACL before the season, leaving the team without two key players heading down the home stretch.

“We’ve faced adversity all season with a small team,” Majra Mucic ’11 said. Counting all the team members still able to play, she added, “And then there were ten.”

The team is indeed small compared to other MIAC teams. Also, only four of the 12 players are returning; the rest are first years or transfers.

Bell hadn’t been playing basketball for five years until she transferred to Macalester from Amherst. She’s not only found a place in the heart on the lineup, but is leading the MIAC in steals.

With Pagel having missed the whole season, a lot of other players have had to step up.

“The leadership on the court has had to come from the sophomores,” Ann Baltzer ’10 said. “It’s weird not to have an established team center.”

The team is also depending on even younger leadership with Johnson out and Jessica Ramirez ’11 playing as the starting point guard.

Even though Macalester is two games behind Hamline, they just as easily could be tied in the standings. Macalester held a commanding 14-point lead against St. Olaf on Saturday, only to see a 30-10 St. Olaf run hand them a 55-61 loss. The team was also within reach of first-place St. Benedict, trailing by only three at halftime, but weren’t able to create enough momentum in the second half, losing the game 57-66.

“We’ve been up, we’ve been down, we’ve come from behind and had them come from behind; we’ve had all the experiences to make us ready for everything,” Head Coach Ellen Thompson said. “We’re going for a win every game, but yet we’re learning every game.”

“Right now the basketball gods are not shining down on us,” Baltzer said. “It’s like throwing a punch and not hitting,” she added, speaking of the frustration of not being able to finish off teams that no-one would have thought they were capable of beating.

The most frustrating thing for Baltzer is that the team’s success is based on a comparison of the shambles that the women’s basketball program was in a few years back. The program has not only recovered, but as we are now seeing the team has become a legitimate contender, capable of squaring off with the best team’s in the MIAC.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work and the kids taking a risk to come here, though at least they knew it’s a great school,” Thompson said. “I can say the same for every single one of them, they took a risk. We’ve got a foundation, and we’ll add pieces every year until we get to the top.”

After a game at Carleton tomorrow, the team will take on Bethel at St. Kate’s next Wednesday before its match-up against Hamline, which will be hosted at St. Thomas. Although having more players on the court would be nice, a large fan presence could make up the difference in these crucial games. I picked the Rockies to do it, and now I’m picking the Macalester women’s basketball team. Are you?