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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 17, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsBend it like Beck

Bend it like Beck: Women’s basketball bounces back from bad start

It’s been seven years since the Ithaca College women’s basketball team last started its season with a losing record heading into winter break. They began the 2008–09 season with a 4–5 record before rattling off nine straight wins in January and ending the season with a record of 19–10.

For the next six years, the Bombers did not lose double digits in a season, while also appearing in five NCAA Tournaments. Despite the promise of a big year this year, the Blue and Gold began their season with a 3–5 record. Since then, the squad has recovered and currently stands at 13–10 heading into a Feb. 19 matchup with Utica College.

After graduating four seniors from last year’s team, which went 23–6 and reached the second round of the NCAA Division III Championship as an at-large participant, the Bombers have failed to meet expectations so far in their 2015–16 campaign.

One of the reasons the South Hill squad has struggled out of the gate this year is that the Bombers’ roster consists of one senior, five juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen. In the past, the team has heavily consisted of upperclassmen, so this is a particularly young team for the Dan Raymond–led squad.

Keri Steele, the lone senior on this year’s squad, has played and started 21 out of the 23 games thus far this season, averaging just 7.7 points for the Blue and Gold, which is good for fourth-best on the team. While Steele has held her own so far this season, without a premiere star, the Bombers have not been able to close out close games, which is what they lack without a veteran presence.

Now that Devin Shea ’13 has joined Raymond’s staff, look for Shea to help some of the more inexperienced Bombers with game management down the stretch.

The loss of junior Alex Gilligan to a knee injury could also have proved to be too much to handle for the guard position. After averaging nearly 14 minutes per game over 24 contests with 5.8 points per game last season, the injury forces her to miss her second season in three years after suffering an shoulder injury during her freshman campaign.

Meanwhile, sophomore guard Erin Woop has stepped into her place but has not been able to get anything going, averaging just 2.7 points per game and shooting just 16-for-75 from the field.

One bright spot for the Bombers has been standout sophomore Jordan Beers. She played in 22 games and shot 41.7 percent from the field last season, but Beers has stepped up the notch this season, averaging a team-best 10.7 points per game and leading the squad in 3-point attempts made with 38. They will need to rely heavily on her to keep up the scoring output.

Empire 8 Conference play will prove to be crucial for the Bombers down the stretch, as the only way to make the NCAA Tournament, at this point, would be to win the Empire 8 Conference outright. With a 9–5 conference record so far and just two more regular season contests before Empire 8 Championship tournament play begins, the women’s basketball team holds its own destiny in its hands.

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Alex Gilligan’s injury. It has since been corrected.

Jonathan Beck can be reached at jbeck3@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @jonbeck365