Women’s basketball has mixed season opener, splits tournament

Daniel Cohen | Contributing Reporter

Washington University’s women’s basketball team opened the season with a split in the Loras College Tipoff Tournament this weekend, falling to Loras College on Friday night, 93-81, before responding with a win in the tournament’s consolation game against Augustana College, 75-64. The Bears came home from their trip to Dubuque, Iowa with a 1-1 season record.

For Wash. U., a young team (10 freshmen) that graduated six seniors last year (including top scorers Madeline Homoly and Rachael Sondag), the weekend opened a new chapter. The Bears started just one upperclassman in each of the games, senior Kristina Schmelter, and the starting lineup featured two freshmen on both nights.

The Bears came out strong in the first quarter on Friday. Freshman Molly Gannon recorded the Bears’ first points of the season with a three-point jump shot early on before the teams began a back-and-forth. Wash. U. climbed to a 10-5 lead with 6:30 left in the quarter, but Loras responded and finished the quarter leading Wash. U. by 11 points with a score of 30-19.

Then-junior Kristina Schmelter shoots the ball in a game against George Fox University last year. Schmelter was the only senior on the team to start in both games this past weekend.

The Bears responded in the second quarter, outscoring Loras 22-15 to end the half down by just four points, 45-41.

Wash. U. outscored Loras again in the third quarter, 23-19, and the teams went into the final quarter tied at 64. The Bears then stagnated, however, scoring just nine points in the last 5:53 of game time. Wash. U. fouled Loras players six times in the last minute, but the strategy did not pay off, as the Duhawks converted on all twelve of their free throws, finishing with a 12-point margin over the Bears.

Bears’ sophomore Isabelle Hren led the team with 18 points and three assists, while sophomore Samantha Weaver tallied eight rebounds. Wash. U. had a field goal percentage of 46.8%, but the Red and Green committed 25 turnovers.

“We played a very tough, veteran Loras team. Once we got a few first game jitters out, I thought we competed the rest of the game,” head coach Randi Henderson said. “We gave Loras a good fight. I was happy we didn’t back down from the challenge.”

The Friday night loss meant that the Bears would face Augustana in the consolation game on Saturday.

The Bears found their rhythm during the first quarter, hitting five of their eight three-point shots and making five of their six free throws. The quarter finished with Wash. U. ahead of the Vikings by eight, 24-16.

The Red and Green continued to dominate in the second quarter as the team held a 16-point lead, 32-16, just two minutes into the quarter and then 19-point leads at the 4:13 and 3:36 marks. Wash. U. went into halftime winning 47-36.

The Vikings outscored the Bears in the third quarter, but Wash. U. still held a 64-58 lead at the end of the quarter. Wash. U. outscored the Vikings in the fourth quarter and the Bears secured a 75-64 victory to tally their first win of the season.

Schmelter led the Bears with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Weaver earned four assists.

In the Bears’ first win of the season, four different players reached double figures in points. This group included three freshmen: Gannon. Naomi Jackson and Sammi Matoush.

The team hopes to use their experiences this weekend to help them for the rest of the season. “I believe we are learning the importance of playing together, valuing every possession offensively and finishing every possession defensively,” Henderson said.

According to Henderson, two starters from last season are still recovering from ACL injuries and a returning junior is out with a concussion, but the Bears hope to be healthy soon.

Wash. U. faces off against Rhodes College on Friday at 3 p.m. in the Bears’ home opener.

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