Women’s basketball team improves after rough beginning
By Henry Arndt, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, February 15, 2013
The Dartmouth women’s basketball team is now riding a four-game Ivy winning streak after suffering a 12-game losing skid during the regular season. Despite a rough start to the season, their recent success comes as no surprise to the team.
“We played one of the most difficult non-league schedules in the country,” head coach Chris Wielgus said. “We played against a lot of the top teams, like Brigham Young [University], Villanova [University] and Syracuse [University]. We threw the kids into the fire, and we were able to compete, just not for 40 minutes.”
After opening Ivy League play with a road loss to Harvard University, the Big Green (6-13, 4-1 Ivy) has turned their season around with consecutive victories over Harvard (13-6, 4-1 Ivy), Brown University, Yale University and Columbia University.
“I definitely think that the two week break in between the Harvard games was a huge shift for us,” captain Faziah Steen ’13 said. “We got more focused, and we realized Ivy League play isn’t going to be easy. In those two weeks we focused a lot on defense and that’s become our staple — dominating the boards and holding our opponents below their averages.”
In its last four games, the team has outscored its opponents 232 to 184 overall. The current winning streak is even more impressive considering the team’s ability to build on its early season losses.
“It was challenging for them day-to-day,” Wielgus said. “I’m really not good at holding their hands. The game of basketball is brutally honest, and you have to be prepared for it. If you’re soft, it just won’t work.”
The team has the second youngest roster in all of NCAA Division I basketball, consisting of seven freshmen and only one senior. This presents clear challenges in a sport that depends so much on chemistry and cohesion between players in order to generate offensive opportunities.
“Not everything’s going to click the first game of the season,” co-captain Nicola Zimmer ’14 said. “We tried to get everyone experience and confidence on the court during the regular season. Now we’re starting to click, and we’re much more comfortable running our sets.”
This season, the women have been more successful on the road than at home. They have won two games in Leede Arena and four when playing away.
“I like playing on the road, to be honest, because there are fewer distractions,” Wielgus said. “When we’re on the road, there’s a specific rhythm. We get up, shoot in the morning and then we leave from the gym and there’s nothing else involved. Dartmouth students have a tendency to fit as much as they can in a day, so when we’re home, [the players] are doing everything they have to do, running around right up until game time.”
After sitting out with a torn ACL her freshman season, Abbey Schmitt ’15 has became a major addition to a team that relies heavily on its ability to outsize its opponents and dominate post-play. Schmitt has won Ivy League Rookie of the Week three times, sits in the top 10 in the Ivy League with 6.1 rebounds per game and has recorded two double-doubles so far this season.
“It’s kind of funny because the team had never seen Abbey play before this year since she came in with an injury,” Zimmer said. “We were playing pick-up at the beginning of this season and we were just like ‘Wow, Abbey can hoop!’ As a point guard, I really love playing with her because she just knows where to be.”
Schmitt was able to make the most out of her injury by familiarizing herself with the team before playing. Even though this is her rookie campaign, she was not thrown into the fire in the same way the other rookies were.
“It was hard to sit and watch on the sidelines, but I learned a lot about the plays we ran and the kind of things coach wanted,” Schmitt said. “I was able to learn her pack line defense, which is a special type of help defense where we don’t allow teams to penetrate the paint. It helped contribute a lot to my play this year.”
The Big Green returns to action this weekend with road games against Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.
“We have an unbelievably challenging weekend coming up,” Wielgus said. “It’s never been smooth sailing. We’ve had bumps before, and that’s part of gaining experience.”