Since the ball dropped in Times Square, heralding in a new year of hope and optimism, William and Mary also dropped the ball in the last seconds, and not just once. The Tribe opened the first week of 2015 with a three-game slide.
The first week of the new year’s schedule was far from friendly, featuring two road trips in as many days. First, the College faced the University of North Carolina Wilmington in a Jan. 4 matchup; then, 48 hours and 430 miles later, the Tribe entered another Colonial Athletic Association showdown against Towson. A home game just three days later against CAA newcomer Elon offered a chance to regroup, though the Phoenix rolled into the matchup with an 8-5 record — certainly no walk in the park.
Stringing together victories quickly devolved into stumbling through a gauntlet, as the Tribe (6-8, 0-3 CAA) extended its losing streak to five games. The College’s last victory came Dec. 18 against Wofford.
Against UNC-W (5-7,1-0 CAA), the College narrowly missed a chance to start 1-0 in conference play, falling 63-62. The Seahawks jumped to an early 10-2 lead before the Tribe offense found its stride. An 11-0 run secured the College’s first lead of the game at 13-12. A competitive matchup throughout, the momentum seesawed back and forth as the half ended with a 33-32 Seahawk advantage.
Despite opening the second half with a 14-6 run, the Tribe couldn’t decisively pull away, with the Seahawks tying the game at 56 with just over six minutes to play. With 14 points, senior forward Kyla Kerstetter led a balanced Tribe attack that saw eight players score. Kerstetter and senior guard Jazmen Boone added key shots in the waning minutes to put the Tribe up 62-58 with 1:47 remaining.
But it wasn’t quite enough. The Seahawks closed the four point gap to seal the win.
“In down and crucial situations, we have got to play better … in decision making, in execution, we have to grow and learn from this,” head coach Ed Swanson told Tribe Athletics. “We will learn from this, as long we keep our heads up, we’ll get these wins back at the end of the year.”
Two days later, the Tribe again found themselves in a nail-biter in an overtime 77-69 defeat at the hands of Towson (5-9, 1-1 CAA). After being limited to just two points against UNC-W, sophomore guard Marlena Tremba quickly found her rhythm against the Tigers, racking up 22 points. Three other Tribe players hit double digits: sophomore forward Alexandra Masaquel (13), freshman guard Jenna Green (10), and Kerstetter (11). Masaquel added 11 rebounds, marking her third career double-double.
Neither the Tribe nor the Tigers gained the upper hand for long in the first half, as the Tribe answered a 8-0 Tiger with a 16-4 run of its own. The half ended in the College’s favor, 23-19.
“Our players are improving, we’re playing hard, we’re playing great in spurts; but we’re young and making some young mistakes,” Swanson told Tribe Athletics. “Kasey Curtis and Alex [Masaquel] are really maturing as players and Jenna [Green] and Latrice [Hunter] are getting better at the point guard position.”
Without sensational freshman center Abby Rendle and lead scorer Boone, the Tribe couldn’t hold onto the advantage into the second half. Despite a 15 point lead, the Tribe surrendered a 23-6 run in the final six minutes as the Tigers forced overtime. Once overtime began, the College couldn’t gain back its momentum, as Towson opened with a 6-0 run en route to a 20-12 overtime advantage.
Prior to the Towson game, the Tribe had dropped three games by a total of just seven points. When discussing the close losses, Swanson told Tribe Athletics that the team “has to show more toughness when momentum swings.”
“We’re getting better, we’re not down at all, and we’re fighting every one of our opponents,” he told Tribe Athletics. “Every game is probably going to be like this all year.”
Back in Kaplan Arena for the first time in 12 days, the Tribe looked to regroup against Elon. The series has historically favored the Tribe, who is 4-1 vs. Elon. However, the Phoenix (9-5, 2-1 CAA), eager to make a statement in their new conference, had other plans.
In contrast to the heartbreaking losses on the road, the College couldn’t mount a serious threat to take over the game at any point, trailing the Phoenix for nearly forty minutes. The only lead came after Boone’s layup, the first score of the game. Entering the half, Elon held a 13 point advantage, 38-25.
“I was disappointed in our performance; we came out of the gate and we really lacked energy and effort,” said Swanson told Tribe Athletics. “They took it to us. They simply outplayed us up and down the floor.”
The second half proceeded much like the first, with Elon leading by as much as 21 points with six minutes remaining. Every Tribe run met a larger Elon run, and though the College did close the gap to 10 points with a minute left, the outcome was never in question.
One of the few bright spots was Masaquel’s performance, as she managed a team high 12 points and four steals.
“She was the one player that really came out and played with the great energy that we needed,” Swanson told Tribe Athletics.
The Tribe bench, led by sophomore guard Latrice Hunter, also performed well in Swanson’s opinion. He alluded to the bench players likely being a crucial part of the team’s effort to break the losing streak.
On another positive note, the Tribe squad has set school records in games with assists (28), blocks (14), and Tremba bested her earlier mark for field goal percentage with a perfect 8-8 in a game against North Carolina A&T. The Tribe also leads the CAA in steals.
Flat Hat staff writer Sumner Higginbotham
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William and Mary is still searching for a conference win after a 65-43 loss to James Madison, preseason favorites in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The Dukes have certainly lived up to their billing so far, as they are 13-2 overall and 4-0 in CAA play. The loss drops the College to 6-9 overall, and 0-4 in CAA play. The Tribe has lost its last six games after starting the season 6-3.
The squads traded baskets for the first 12 minutes of the game, and neither team managed a large lead. With the game tied at 19, though, the Dukes went on an 18-5 run. James Madison entered halftime with an 11-point lead, a deficit the Tribe wouldn’t erase.
James Madison built on their lead in the second half, holding the Tribe to just 17 points. The College couldn’t mount a comeback run, and ultimately lost by 22.
Despite the loss, senior guard Jazmen Boone had an excellent night. She scored 13 points and finished the night with three steals. Boone continues an excellent senior campaign, averaging almost 12 points and six rebounds per game.
For the first time all season, the College’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Marlena Tremba, didn’t start. After struggling against Elon, Tremba lost the start to senior guard Kyla Kerstetter. In her first start of the season, Kerstetter had four points, two rebounds, and three assists. However, she also turned the ball over five times and recorded four personal fouls.
The Tribe plays Drexel Thursday, with scheduled tipoff at 7 p.m. at Kaplan Arena. The College hopes to snap its losing streak and earn its first conference win of the year.
Flat Hat staff writer Tyler Shaw