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Defense defines driven women’s basketball squad

The+Ithaca+College+womens+basketball+team+has+had+13+or+more+steals+in+five+of+their+last+seven+games+and+in+that+time+have+compiled+a+6-1+record+behind+fast+and+gritty+defense.
Maddy Tanzman
The Ithaca College women’s basketball team has had 13 or more steals in five of their last seven games and in that time have compiled a 6-1 record behind fast and gritty defense.

The Ithaca College women’s basketball team is now holding a record of 13–3 and have been dominating Liberty League play. Through that run, the Bombers’ staunch defensive effort has been on full display. 

The Bombers came out of its winter break already on a three game winning streak, but caught fire as they joined back into Liberty League action. Through the South Hill squads’ last seven games, they compiled a 6–1 record, led the league in turnover margin and have recorded 13 or more steals in five of those games. 

After their Liberty League Championship loss last season against Skidmore College, where the Bombers only lost by two points, there is now an added drive to the team. As important as offense is in this sport, teams cannot win without having a strong defensive foundation. Head coach Dan Raymond said the team has that defensive mindset in spades. 

“[Coach Mullins] and I talked about how there are going to be games where the offense is going to struggle,” Raymond said. “When you know it’s going to be hard to put the ball in the basket for some unknown reason. But defense and rebounding, they are all based on attitude and effort.”

Raymond has emphasized the importance of having not only a positive attitude but a healthy one, on and off the court among all players. Junior forward Anya Watkins explained how having a hard-nosed drive to play factors in the team’s recent dominance over their opponents.

“I think the biggest part is our attitude when we go onto the court,” Watkins said. “During practice our focus is on effort and attitude, that is where we make adjustments.”

Whether the team is on the court for a practice or a game, they always bring it their all, proving that they are making a comeback and are striving for a title this season. Senior guard Hannah Polce said she believes the team has the potential to be at the top of the Liberty League when all is said and done.

“We are capable of being very good this year,” Polce said. “I think we just need to put the pieces together and stay together. Good things can come from this.” 

Raymond and his volunteer assistant, Jim Mullins, who used to coach for the men’s basketball team, sat down before preseason started and carefully crafted defensivebased drills that would make the Bombers not only stronger but smarter in their plays. 

Raymond revealed a drill that the team has been working on each practice that heavily works on defense. In the drill, there is a player on the perimeter and a player in the post. The players pressure the ball and go between the ball and the post, with the main goal to keep the ball from the middle of the court, as they do not want the opposing team to take advantage of the ball.

The added drive of last year’s Liberty League loss has motivated the team to grow stronger in a number of ways. Something that helps with this is the prominent veteran leadership within the team. There are two seniors on the team, along with two graduate students.

“We absolutely are trying to get some revenge and be back on top where we want to be,” Polce said. “We want to be hitting our peak level of play around that time. So we just are trying to build up to that point, so we can be playing our best basketball during that time.”

Polce said the upperclassmen are a driving force, making the team lean into the fast, gritty play style they have embraced this season.

“I think as a team we also try to push the ball and run the court fast, so I think it’s always on the veterans to try and teach that push to the younger girls,” Polce said. “This year we have a lot of younger girls and girls who have not had a chance to play a lot in past years getting minutes, so I think as a veteran it’s been important to help guide them in the right direction.”

Raymond said that having this sturdy veteran leadership has built closer bonds and relationships among the team, which in turn helps their game.

“Hannah [Polce], [senior guard] Graycen [Dubin] and [graduate student guard] Camryn [Coffey], our upperclassmen, are doing a really great job with holding themselves accountable and holding their teammates accountable which is something I am a firm believer of,” Raymond said. 

 Speaking of veteran leadership, the Bombers gained a new player this year, graduate student guard June Dickson. Dickson has played a vital role this season, especially on defense, leading the team with 2.1 steals per game. Coming from D1 California Polytechnic State University, she said that while the divisions are different, defense still holds a similar value. 

“There’s a difference in the level of play of DI and D3,” Dickson said. “But defense is one of those universal things. Girls differ in height and tend to be taller, but besides that, defense is always crucial.”

Raymond hit home what his veterans were expressing, and it seems that the team is now in lockstep about how they want to play against their opponents. Raymond said that while offense is something everyone wants to have, defense is the backbone of what gives this Bombers team its own identity.

“So that’s the kind of emphasis that we made with this group, that yeah, everybody loves offense, everybody loves to score, but defense is something you can count on every game,” Raymond said.



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Maddy Tanzman, Photo Editor
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