Women’s Undefeated Basketball Team Faces Toughest Task Against DeSales

Parker Abate, Reporter

The women’s basketball team is off to the best start in program history after racking up 16 straight wins to start the season, and earning a #22 ranking in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association national poll.

The Cougars (16-0, 4-0) had 18 wins all of last season. The consensus among the team’s four captains, Rachel Carmody, Leanne Forsyth, Jordan Barth and Erica Haefele, is that defense has made all the difference.

“Defense. Our defense is different this year which was hard to get used to but our team is so quick and athletic that it works in our favor,” said sophomore guard, Haefele.

The Cougars have only allowed 51.1 points per game.

The squad has dominated the competition this season with an average scoring margin of 25 points. Barth was blunt when asked about the smothering defense.

“Our defense is ridiculous. Teams can’t catch up on to what we do, and it’s allowing us to get steals and fast break points that we weren’t getting last year,” Barth said.

The chemistry among teammates has also contributed to the historic start.

Forsyth stressed the team’s togetherness and selflessness. “Our starting five has been the same for over a year now, and everyone on the team, on to thirteen, is accepting of their role. We all know what’s expected of us, and take pride in what we do no matter how big or small it is,” she said.

Haefele believes the team has an unusual ability to endure.

“We realized how much potential this team has, and we discussed as a team that we have to fight for it if we want it. We have overcome adversity much better this year when it seems as if last season, we would just crumble. We have so much chemistry and I believe it has to do with the fact that we played together last year,” she said.

A perfect record is on the line in the Cougars next game, when they take on rival, DeSales University. The game, originally scheduled for Saturday, January 18th, was postponed due to the impending snow storm. The two teams will likely face off early next week.

The Bulldogs are ranked just ahead of the Cougars at twenty-first in the same coaches’ poll. This matchup will be the toughest test of the season.

Carmody, who scored her 1,000th career point earlier this season, believes she knows the recipe for success against DeSales.

“Our defense generates our offense. If we get steals and rebounds, we can run in transition and get easy points. We need to move the ball and make the extra pass in our half court sets,” said Carmody.

Forsyth agreed with Carmody’s game plan.

“We take pride in limiting the amount of points the other team scores, and letting our defense create our offense,” said Forsyth.

This contest will not be an easy one, but Barth believes the Cougars can prevail if they remain focused and play their game.

“We have to play our style, and understand that they are a good inside out team and will have their runs. We can’t get frustrated. We know how to win and what it takes. We just need to implement it for the full 40 minutes. A big factor will be if we play as a team and find the open shots rather than force things due to the score,” said Barth.

Carmody does not want to change a thing that the team has done for the first 16 games heading into the big matchup.

“Defense is going to win us the game. We need to generate steals and turnovers from our defensive intensity,” she said.

Last season, the Cougars scored a season-low 48 points in a 59-48 loss to the Bulldogs.

Haefele said that the key to putting points on the board is how they work in transition.

“We play our best games when we push the ball ahead and work the ball inside out. We have to be the ones to bring the energy,” she said.

When asked about what a win against DeSales would mean to the team, Forsyth said proving their doubters wrong would feel great.

“We’re making history with every game we play, but we do know that we have a lot of critics out there that are doubting us. DeSales is a good team and is currently ranked higher than us in the top 25 polls. Beating them would show everyone else that they can’t just ignore or count us out anymore. This isn’t the same program that the school had 4 years ago,” said Forsyth.

Barth also wants to prove doubters wrong.

“I believe a win [against DeSales] will bring into perspective how good we really are. I think some people still doubt us, but bringing home the ‘W’ on our home court will definitely boost our confidence,” said Barth.

A big task for Barth and Carmody will be containing DeSales senior forward, Bridget Walsh. Listed at 6’2, Walsh averages 8 points per page while shooting 50.9% from the field. She leads the team in rebounds averaging 9.2 per game.

Carmody, who ranks second in the MAC Freedom Conference with 9.9 rebounds per game, wants to make Walsh feel uncomfortable.

“We have to force her into uncomfortable situations where she makes moves that are not second nature,” she said.

Barth agreed. “We really need to focus on her tendencies and take them away, just make her as uncomfortable as possible.” Barth also cited getting Walsh into foul trouble as a way to disrupt Desales’ game plan.

Win or lose, nothing can take away from the Cougars historical start to the 2018-2019 campaign. A win, however would put the Cougars in sole possession of 1st place in the MAC Freedom as well as give them a great shot at cracking the top 20 for the first time in program history.

“Coach always tells us to ‘leave your mark’. We want to set the bar high for the years to come,” said Carmody.