Women’s basketball start season strong

William Dawson III

As the winter sports season approached, a lot of sports talk on the Quinnipiac campus focused on the men’s hockey team and the men’s basketball team, which was picked to win the Northeast Conference this season. One team that was clearly overlooked was the women’s basketball team.

Though they were not picked to win the NEC, they were picked to do the next best thing, finish second. The Bobcats are coming off their best season at the Division 1 level. They notched 18 wins, 14 in NEC Conference play. Quinnipiac is also returning 10 letter winners, three starters, and two 1,000-point scorers. Obviously, experience is not an issue on this squad.

The Bobcats opened the season facing a tough opponent in Yale. The Bulldogs hold an all-time series lead 4-3. However, Quinnipiac has won the last three games, so the Bobcats were not overmatched. This game was the home opener for QU, and that was another encouraging factor as Quinnipiac has posted a 19-3 record at home over the past two seasons.

When the players were finally on the court and ready for tip-off, the crowd at Burt Kahn court was one that was unheard of. A crowd totaling 1,081 was there to support the Bobcats. It was the largest crowd at a women’s basketball game since the switch to D-1. Last year’s NEC player of the year and a Preseason All-Conference Team pick this year, Ashlee Kelly, led all scorers with 22 points and added 12 rebounds to propel the Bobcats to a 67-63 victory. It was her 35th career double-double as a Brave/Bobcat. Two more seniors added double digit scoring as Sara Esidore had 15 and Katie Keilty had 11 respectively.

Junior Tory Mauseth led Yale with 22 points of her own, but it was not enough as no one else on her team was able to break the double digit scoring mark.

Overall, the game was extremely close, as it featured 22 lead changes and 17 ties. The biggest lead of the game turned out to be the final margin of victory, four points. Yale’s 14 turnovers in the first half hurt the Bulldogs immensely. Though they were able to keep the game close with five three pointers in the first half, there were clearly too many missed scoring opportunities. Even though these turnovers hurt Yale, Quinnipiac was unable to put the game away until the Bobcats sank five of their six free throws in the final 32 seconds. In a game decided by less than five points, there were two deciding factors. Yale turned the ball over 25 times compared to only 12 turnovers for the Bobcats. Along with great ball handling by the Bobcats, Kelly took over the game in the second half, scoring 17 of her 22 and grabbing eight of her 12 rebounds. The win tied the all time series between the teams at four a piece. This game is the only meeting between the two schools this season.

While the Yale victory was a tough fought game, the Bobcats had no time to celebrate. Quinnipiac faced an even more daunting game just four days later. The Hofstra Pride, though not nationally ranked, is a tough opponent that can never be overlooked. The Bobcats played Hofstra for the first time ever on Tuesday, November 25 in Hempstead, New York. Hofstra was 0-1 coming into the game and did not want to start out their season by digging themselves into a 0-2 hole.

Quinnipiac was looking to start the season 2-0 for the first time since the ’91-’92 season. In another back and forth battle, the Bobcats led by nine with just 7:45 to go in the game. However, the Bobcats were unable to put the game away and it proved costly. The Pride mounted a 12-3 run that tied the game and then went on an 8-4 run in the last 2:14 of regulation to pull out the 65-62 victory.

The Bobcats were led by Esidore’s 20 points, followed by Kelly’s double-double of 14 points and 15 rebounds and Katie Keilty’s 12 points. In a game that featured many scoring runs, Hofstra was able to get the momentum late in the game and ride it to the finish. Along with the late scoring run, Hofstra won the game with the strength of its bench, outscoring QU’s bench 25-8. This is the only time the two teams will meet this season.

Just four days later, the Bobcats traveled to Boston to play the Northeastern University Huskies. After falling to 1-1 on the season, Quinnipiac faced a daunting task. The Bobcats are just 1-3 against Northeastern all-time. Their one win came last season at home, so Quinnipiac had reason to remain positive about this match-up between two 1-1 teams. However, Esidore was unable to play due to injuries.

When the game started, the Bobcats were not able to match the Huskies intensity. After building a 4-0 lead, Quinnipiac faltered and was overwhelmed by the Huskies 14-1 run. After being down as much as 15 points, the Bobcats entered halftime down by 13. The Huskies were powered by sophomores Maralene Zwarich and Michelle Decerbo, as they combined to score 24 of Northeastern’s 36 first half points. The second half did not get any better for Quinnipiac as they were unable to erase the deficit. The Huskies mounted a 12-0 run with 10:36 remaining in the game to put the Bobcats away 74-49.

Though Esidore, the Bobcats leading scorer, did not play, junior Helen Ridley contributed a career high 15 points in 20 minutes of play. Kelly also contributed nine points and eight rebounds.

The Bobcats upcoming schedule does not get any easier in the next few games. They are set to face America East opponents New Hampshire at home on December 3, and rival Hartford on the road December 9. Last season the Bobcats finished 1-1 against the America East Conference. They defeated Northeastern and fell to Hartford. They are a modest 14-14 all time against the AE Conference.