A tough non-conference schedule and a series of illnesses marred the Dartmouth women’s basketball’s record to date. The Big Green will go into its first league match on Saturday with a 3-7 record.
After losing the heartbreaking season opener to UNH in overtime 75-73, Dartmouth fell to Fordham 66-48. The Big Green faced the Rams with only seven healthy players after several team members came down with the flu.
“We’ve only played one game with everyone healthy,” Angela Soriaga ’06 commented after her return from winter break. “We’ve been battling injuries and sickness throughout the season.”
A 68-63 win over Fairfield snapped the two-game losing streak and shined a light of hope into the heart of the team. Junior Jean Cullen ’06 led four Dartmouth players in double figures.
But darkness again clouded the Big Green only days later. Sophomore Elise Morrison’s 29-point effort was not enough to lift Dartmouth to a win against Hartford. The team fell to the Hawks 72-64.
Then, through the cooperation of Ashley Taylor ’07 and Cullen, the Big Green came away with a win over the Manhattan Jaspers 66-52. The victory was exactly what Dartmouth needed: a shot of optimism.
That optimism culminated in a 74-71 victory over the University of Illinois at Chicago. Cullen, playing before more than a hundred friends and relatives, recorded 19 points and five assists.
“Playing the game in Chicago was one of my greatest basketball experiences,” Cullen said. “My family and friends were so excited to come and support me and the team.”
Morrison also had a strong performance, grabbing 20 rebounds, a new personal record, and scoring 17 points.
As a result of her excellent performance in the UIC game, Morrison, last season’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year, was named Ivy League Women’s Basketball Player of the Week. Morrison was, “thrilled to be named player of the week.”
“I felt that at the beginning of the season I had a bit of a rocky start,” Morrison said, “and to receive the award helps me to keep my head up and keep pushing myself and my teammates.”
Coming away from the UIC Flames, Dartmouth took on the vengeful Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas avenged last season’s loss to the Big Green before a crowd of 2054 people, defeating Dartmouth 84-51.
The losing streak continued for the Big Green in the Blue Sky Restaurant Group Classic over the winter break. Dartmouth fell first to the undefeated Richmond Spiders (ranked 27th) 58-55, then suffered a loss against the Valparaiso Crusaders 66-60. The Big Green put up a fight in both contests but could not, in the words of Cullen, “play a full 40 minutes of basketball.” Cullen thought that “[the team] played Richmond and Valpo close but felt that we should have won both games.”
Dartmouth, off to a bad start, lost its first game of the new year to the Siena Saints 51-49. The Big Green and the Saints were head-to-head at the 39th-minute mark but two free throws with three seconds left on the clock by Michelle Blot of Siena sailed the Saints to its fourth win. Morrison, Soriaga and Cullen all expressed an urgent need to improve the team’s defensive front.
“For the season, I really hope that as a team we can improve on our rebounding and overall defense,” Morrison said.
The Big Green, undeterred from its goal of winning the Ivy League title, will commence its Ivy League schedule on Saturday in Leede Arena, facing longtime rival Harvard.
“I am confident about playing Harvard.” Soriaga said with an air of confidence. “Our pre-conference schedule has been difficult for a reason: to prepare us for big games like the one we’re about to play.”