Busy weekend for Bears: Winter, spring sports in action
Mudd Field was blanketed by snow Saturday morning. By afternoon, you could see every blade of grass. The phenomenon symbolized this past weekend for the Washington University sports teams, who saw winter and spring collide as six different teams saw action. There was a lot to take in; so, here’s what you may have missed.
The women’s basketball team bounced back from an agonizing overtime loss last Sunday at New York University with two decisive home victories against Case Western Reserve University and Carnegie Mellon University to keep its postseason hopes afloat.
In the first matchup of Senior Weekend, the Red and Green delivered their strongest offensive performance of the season Friday in the Field House, scoring 99 points in a 38-point win over Case Western. That mark also set Wash. U.’s highest margin of victory of the 2017-18 season.
The red-hot attack was spurred by an unlikely source: junior swingman Caroline Ballard, who notched a career-high 16 points. She was on fire from the start, going on a personal 13-4 run with the score 15-15 midway through the first quarter. The other Bears fed her the ball as she hit four straight threes and added a free throw for good measure. Ballard added another three in the second quarter to make it 16 points on 5-of-5 three-point shooting in a sensational first half.
The first half provided all the breathing room Wash. U. would need, as they entered the locker room up 29. Though Ballard went 0-for-3 the rest of the contest, another junior, guard Katie Claussner, picked up the pace with a career game of her own, scoring a personal-best 12 points in just nine minutes, all in the second half. Three other Bears scored in double digits as the Red and Green walked away with a relaxing victory.
Sunday, in the last regular season home game for the senior class, Wash. U. against asserted itself from start to finish, outscoring Carnegie Mellon in each quarter. Decorated senior guard Natalie Orr went out with a bang, scoring a season-high 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-9 from downtown. The quintet moved Orr into third place all-time on the Wash. U. leaderboard with 150 made threes.
Fellow senior guard Shelby Mann also went out with a game to remember, dishing out nine assists for the best mark of her career. Mann was a late bloomer as a Bear, developing greatly as a senior after limited playing time her first three years at Wash. U. After 17 total assists through her junior year, Mann has posted 88 this year, making her first career start in January and starting every game since.
The Bears travel to No. 11 University of Chicago next Saturday as they look to come up with a key quality win in their final audition ahead of the playoffs.
Swimming and diving
The Wash. U. swimming and diving team competed in their biggest, and last, event of the regular season this weekend, traveling to Atlanta for the UAA championships. The meet, held over four days, was both a chance to claim some hardware and to clinch qualifying times for next month’s NCAA championships.
In terms of team scores, Emory University was dominant on the women’s side, amassing nearly double the points of second-place New York University. Wash. U. finished in fifth place, though that alone does not quite tell the whole story of their result, as their total of 1209.5 was only 37 points behind NYU.
Despite not registering any individual conference championships, Wash. U. women broke three school records at the meet, highlighted by senior Niamh O’Grady’s second-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley. Sophomore Jenna Wilf also broke a school record in the 100-yard breaststroke with her fifth place finish in the event; and the 400 medley relay team of Wilf, O’Grady, senior Nicole Zanolli and sophomore Mollie Seidner took home silver.
The men’s team finished third in a field that was also topped by Emory. Four Wash. U. men secured UAA titles, with juniors Brandon Lum, Andrew Pek, Kevin Van Cleave and sophomore Peyton Wilson each earning top spot. Wilson’s 200-yard backstroke win and Van Cleave’s win in the 200 individual medley also both broke school records.
The Bears now have one more tune-up meet—next weekend’s Midwest Invitational—before the NCAA championships in March. While there will not be any silverware on the line next week, the stakes will be high for a number of Wash. U.’s swimmers, who only have one more chance to swim a time in competition that will earn them a spot at nationals.
The baseball Bears had a rough opening weekend, getting swept by No. 22 University of Texas at Dallas before losing a one-run game at Hendrix College—with two of the three losses in extra innings.
The first inning of opening day couldn’t have gone any better, as junior starting pitcher John Howard induced an inning-ending double play before the Red and Green offense loaded the bases with no outs. The Bears manufactured a run on freshman designated hitter Johnny LaMantia’s sacrifice fly, and one frame into the 2018 season, Wash. U. had a 1-0 lead.
That lead was temporarily washed away when the Comets pushed across a run in the third inning, but Howard stranded two Comets to keep it knotted at one. In the bottom of the fourth, the Bears snatched the lead right back on sophomore catcher Thomas Gardner’s RBI single.
Howard remained masterful through six frames, striking out five and walking just one while exiting with a 3-1 lead. That lead would get tested quickly, as freshman Tim Tague allowed a run-scoring double before Gardner caught the batter-runner stealing third to end the top of the seventh.
But the respite was brief, as Tague coughed up the lead on an RBI single in the eighth before a wild pitch allowed the Comets to take their first advantage of the day. Wash. U. could not manage a rally to counter, and Texas-Dallas scored three insurance runs in the ninth to close out the 7-3 win.
Wash. U.’s luck wasn’t much better the next day. In his first career start, freshman righty Ryan Loutos went a fairly effective four innings, though errors led to three unearned runs on his ledger. A stable of freshmen and sophomores followed, but they weren’t enough to stymy the Comets’ high-powered offense, which laid 14 runs on the Bears. The Red and Green managed to push three across in the eighth for a 14-4 loss.
Later Sunday against Hendrix, the Bears again got out to a 1-0 lead on a LaMantia double, but Hendrix answered right back in the bottom of the fourth. After Hendrix took the lead in sixth, sophomore third baseman John Brinkman added a clutch double of his own to knot things up at two apiece. But Hendrix walked off in extras, with Tague picking up his second loss of the weekend in the 10th inning.
Next weekend, the Red and Green travel to Jackson, Miss. for three games before returning to St. Louis for the home opener against Greenville University the following Wednesday.
The Wash. U. men’s tennis played their last indoor warm-up match before next weekend’s ITA Indoor Nationals, taking on Division II Maryville in Belleville, Ill. The Bears continued their impressive record against Division II teams; the 8-1 win was their fifth-straight over schools from the division stretching back to last season.
The Bears jumped ahead early, sweeping doubles, and their dominance continued through singles. Wash. U.’s only loss came in a heartbreaker in the number two singles spot, with sophomore J.J. Kroot dropping his match 11-9 in a third-set tiebreak.
The Bears will play Division III opposition for the first time this season in St. Peter, Minn. when they take on the No. 11 University of Redlands in the first round of indoor nationals.