After a pair of heartbreaking losses to open the season, William and Mary earned its first victory of the season Wednesday, dropping a 78-44 thrashing on Virginia Union at Kaplan Arena. The Tribe (1-2) never trailed against the Panthers, rolling to a 40-23 halftime lead and never letting up.
The College dominated from the start and jumping out to a hot start by snatching an early 16-6 lead. The College outpaced the Panthers the rest of the game, relying on consistent shooting and forcing 36 Virginia Union turnovers.
While impressed with the win, head coach Debbie Taylor saw the need for improvement, especially with regard to turnovers, as the College gave the ball away 24 times.
“I think we need to play with a little bit more discipline,” Taylor said. “Obviously, we scored some points, and I think defensively we played hard, but we’ve got to do a better job taking care of the ball. We are having turnover problems, and most of our turnovers are unforced, so once we start taking better care of the ball, we are going to be a very good team.”
The Tribe earned a key spark off the bench from sophomore guard Kyla Kerstetter, who netted her first four shots and scored nine first-half points. The sophomore shot 6 of 11 from the field to log 14 points and six assists on offense, for the game. She also led the defensive effort with a game high eight steals.
“Coach Taylor also tells me to be that spark off the bench. I’m fresh legs when everybody else is tired, so that gives me an advantage,” Kerstetter said.
Although Virginia Union threatened to steal the lead with a 10-0 streak to tie the contest at 16, the Tribe unleashed a 24-7 run of its own, scoring 11 consecutive points near the end of the first half to build a commanding 40-23 halftime lead.
In addition to Kerstetter, the Tribe’s first half barrage was led by sharp performances from senior guard Janine Aldridge and junior forward Kaitlyn Mathieu, who combined for 18 points in the first half alone to spur the Tribe.
Aldridge led the Tribe with 15 points on a 6 for 13 shooting performance, adding in three assists and plenty of steady ball-handling as she led the College against the full court pressure.
“Our goal was just to rip through their press and make them take it off,” Aldridge said.
The Panthers attempted to gain some momentum in the second half with full court pressure, but the Tribe quickly adjusted, working the ball up-court quickly with each possession. The Tribe increased an already fast tempo to intense speed by shooting early in each possession and racking up 34 shots in the second half.
The Tribe also made a clear effort to move the ball into the post in the second half, earning 18 foul shots after playing the entire first half without taking a trip to the charity stripe. Senior forward Emily Correal hit five free throws on her way to notching nine of her 13 points in the second half.
Both sides saw their shooting percentages decrease across an occasionally frantic second half. The Tribe committed 24 turnovers in the game and rushed several shots throughout the period, often abandoning the more successful, pass-heavy offense that they showed in the first half. Despite the turnovers, the Panthers never threatened the Tribe’s lead as Taylor’s squad cruised to a fast-paced but comfortable win.
The Tribe will be playing away from home for the next six weeksbefore returning to Kaplan Arena Jan. 3 to take on Winthrop. The Tribe hopes to build on their first victory and improve their ball control and overall discipline on both sides of the ball.