The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Women’s basketball wins together

Forward Sydnee Smith ’27 gets the ball outside the three-point line. Photo by Eleanor Lazaroff ’27.

Students are slowly returning from a month-long winter break, but the Macalester Women’s basketball team has been here for weeks; their season started in early December and is set to continue through February. 

The Scots are locked in a tight playoff battle, trying to get into the playoffs on standings for the first time in 13 years (The last time these Scots featured in the postseason was 2022, but that year all 11 MIAC teams made it. Before then, their last postseason appearance was 2011). Currently, they sit at fourth from the bottom, two spots outside of the playoffs. Macalester’s main opponents are all tied with them, sitting on five wins, though with fewer games played. This year, after picking up crucial wins against key rivals, they have the opportunity to make it back to that stage. However, the Scots remain focused on their own improvement and playing their own game, as opposed to the numerical result. 

“As a staff and program we made the decision in the beginning of the year to not talk about the number of wins we were hoping for or wanted to accomplish,” Head Coach Katie Kollar wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “We instead put our focus on specific performance and process goals that we could control every day in practice and when we compete. We have a long season, and it is important to keep our focus on the journey, not the destination. That may sound cliche but it is really easy to get caught up in the outcome of a game and miss the experience and individual and team growth.”

On Jan. 17, in one last game before classes began, Macalester went up against St. Olaf College. Last year, the Scots narrowly squeaked by the Oles twice, beating them by six and then two points. This season, Katherine Norquist ’25 scored two points a minute and a half into the first period, starting a 12-point run that would set the tone for the rest of the game, as the Scots consistently held a lead against the Oles and ran up the score to 31-17 by halftime. Although St. Olaf fought back in the second half, coming within seven points of the Scots by the fourth quarter, the game ended with Macalester winning 58-47. Peyton Starks ’25 scored 19 of those 58, leading her to score her 1000th career point three days later against St. Scholastica. 

The moment was nothing if not cinematic. Minutes into the match, Starks pulled up for a two-point jumper — two points that put her over the 1000-point milestone in her career as a Scot. The crowd celebrated the achievement, and Kollar called a timeout so the bench players could come out and congratulate their teammate. 

Starks, in her third year in the program, is one of the best scorers in Macalester history. In the 2022-23 season she led the MIAC with 18.6 points per game, two points above the next highest scorer. The midrange jumper that earned her 1000th point is a shot she’s made her trademark as part of the Scots offense over the last three seasons, and one she’ll use to power the Scots down the stretch of this season as they make a push for the playoffs. 

Despite Starks’ momentous achievement, unfortunately, the Scots were unable to bring it home. Guard Caitlin Panos ’24 lamented this outcome. 

“It was hard that we couldn’t pull out the win for her,” Panos said. “But we’re all celebrating as if we had won because a win for Peyton is a win for all of us. A win for anyone on the team is a win for all of us. So really just trying to take that togetherness mindset into it to hopefully translate into some more wins going forward.”

Two days prior to the match against St. Olaf, the team faced Hamline University on Monday, Jan. 15. 

 Once again starting off the game was Norquist, sinking two baskets and putting Macalester in the lead. Yet, even though Macalester remained ahead for most of the game, the Pipers kept it close, and by halftime, the Scots were only two points ahead. At the start of the fourth they were trailing by one. 

Against an opponent that had defeated them twice last season — both times by comfortable margins — the Scots remained resilient. Down the stretch, the Pipers got hot and opened up a five-point lead with a little over 90 seconds remaining, and the Scots would eventually have to take fouls and send the Pipers to the line. However, crucial defensive plays and clutch free throws brought the Scots level and forced overtime. There, even as the Pipers jumped out to a three-point lead, the Scots stayed composed, coming back to earn a crucial win at a key point in the season. Kollar attributed the win to the team’s togetherness and composure. 

“It was a close game at half so there weren’t that many adjustments to make — more just staying the course of what we were already doing — keep defending and grabbing rebounds and trust that our team defense will put us in a position to compete for the win,” Kollar wrote. “We wanted to come out with the same intensity and spark that we started the game with and overall that led us to a team win.” 

Starting off with three points for Hamline, eventually Macalester pulled ahead, and in the end the Scots came out on top, with a final score of 62-57.  

“I think that was a game [where] we had a lot of trust in each other more so than any other day,” Panos said.“There weren’t any big tactical decisions that were made… I think it was really just confidence and really, like enjoying playing together as a team and being together as a team that allowed us to come up on top on that one.”

These two victories are not the whole story of this season, though. The game before they went against Hamline, Macalester lost by 3 to Augsburg, and 10 days before that, the final score was 38-58 against St. Catherine’s, a loss that would be repeated on Jan. 22, two days following another loss against St. Scholastica. Panos says the focus isn’t on that, though. 

“We talk a lot as a team about winning deep,” she said. “Where we want the season to be one where we played for ourselves, and that we leave it and we feel like we left everything that we had on the court, whether that ends in wins or losses… We really care about each other as a team… so we’re working really hard to just carry that togetherness into the next part of the season.”

 Kollar echoed Panos’ sentiment. 

“Regardless of the outcome of a game we want to be playing our best basketball in February,” Kollar wrote. “We are not focused on anybody but ourselves, and we will continue to model that in the day-to-day. It has been a great season to date, and I’m incredibly proud of our team and what they bring every single day when nobody is watching.”


*Noah Riccardi Sports Editor contributed to the writing of this article

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