Senior guard Mary Kate Tierney calmly walked onto the hardwood Jan. 18 at Nazareth College’s Kidera Gymnasium to start the women’s basketball team’s fifth regular season game in 10 days.
As she crossed the inbounds line, she surveyed a sea of purple Golden Flyer jerseys to find her matchup. When the whistle blew, her eyes tracked the ball as it moved around the court. She waited for the perfect time to jump in front of the ball to lunge for a steal. She rapidly picked up the ball and rushed down the court for a basket.
About two hours later, Tierney’s eyes glanced at the final score — it was 63–54 in her team’s favor.
The Bombers have won four games in a row against conference opponents within the past two weeks, and they hope to use that momentum to win the conference and ultimately compete for an NCAA championship.
The Bombers have established positive momentum, according to multiple players. The squad has won six of its last seven games, improving its overall record to 12–4 this season. Tierney said she thinks the team’s concerted effort on defense has helped the team accomplish its current winning streak.
“Our defense has been great, and we’ve been coming out in the past few games with phenomenal starts,” Tierney said. “We believe our defense sparks our offense. If we can get off to good starts there and get stops, then that transitions into our offense.”
During the past seven games, the Bombers averaged 11 steals per game, which is almost two steals more than their seasonal average.
Though the South Hill squad lost to No. 5–ranked Amherst College and No. 1–ranked Depauw University during the winter break, senior guard Elizabeth Wentlent said she thinks the team has improved after playing several difficult opponents earlier in the season.
“We played a lot of really good teams — highly ranked teams,” Wentlent said. “We didn’t pull out victories against some of them, but they were really good experiences, and they got us prepared going into league games and into the second half of the season. I think we’re just carrying through the different things that we learned.”
Eight of the Bombers’ nine remaining regular season games come against E8 opponents. The Blue and Gold are currently third in the conference standings with a record of 5–1. They trail only Hartwick College (6–0) and Elmira College (4–0). The South Hill squad will face Hartwick once and Elmira twice during the remainder of the season. Senior guard Kathryn Campbell said the next few weeks are critical for the Bombers as they jockey for a position at the top of the conference.
“I think that we definitely had a couple losses that we weren’t expecting, but we learned from them and we moved on,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve hit our peak at all yet, which is pretty exciting.”
According to Tierney, the Blue and Gold have fallen short of the expectations they set for themselves this year after a 27–3 record and Sweet 16 berth during the 2012–13 campaign. Tierney said the Bombers’ ultimate goal of winning a national championship will remain unhindered.
“This team is talented and deep,” she said. “We have kids that really believe that we can get to a national championship and that we are that good. We can still get better even this late in the season. Our goal is to make a run in the NCAA championships and hopefully make it to that championship game.”