November 29, 2012
With only six returning players, the 2012-2013 Hamilton women’s basketball team expected inevitable early season growing pains. The Continentals are off to an 0-3 start after falling to Ithaca and Tufts in the season opening Skidmore Invitational, followed by a loss to SUNY Oswego in the home opener.
In each game, the opposing team has managed a critical second half scoring run to create separation in an otherwise closely contested game, a telltale sign of a Hamilton team still trying to find its footing. Nevertheless, the consistent skill of the team’s three seniors (Eliza Howe, Madie Harlem and Kim Goidell) has provided a reliable foundation while the team searches for the right combination to convert talent into wins.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better senior class both on and off the court,” praises first-year head coach Michelle Collins. “They have provided positive leadership for our team, especially to our six freshmen.”
In particular, starting center, Howe, has kept the team in many games. In addition to earning a spot on the all-tournament team at Skidmore, Howe has averaged 15.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, often serving as the primary option on offense and the anchor of the team’s stout defense. Her efficient 23-point effort against Ithaca (7-13 fieldgoals, 9-11 freethrows) nearly spurred a frantic come-from-behind victory before the Conts fell short, 66-61. The senior captain attributes her early season success to an aggressive mindset, a fact evidenced by leading the team with 26 free throw attempts.
“In the Skidmore tournament games, I think we moved the ball really well and ran our plays well,” says Howe. “That led to a lot of open shots and a chance to frequently post up down low for me. My goal in those games was to be as aggressive as possible so I could get to the free throw line as much as possible.”
While Howe has provided a strong interior presence, Goidell and Harlem have been a dynamic backcourt combination, accounting for the majority of the team’s perimeter scoring. Harlem, who needs just 193 points to become the ninth women’s player in school history to reach the 1,000 point milestone, has filled out the stat sheet with her all-around play, leading the team in assists and second in points and rebounds. Goidell has taken primary ball handling responsibilities as the starting point guard, playing the most minutes on the team, including a full forty-minute performance against Oswego.
“Their effort has been absolutely outstanding,” Collins says of her guard tandem. “They’ve especially done a terrific job on the defensive end, which has been so valuable since we’re still working out some kinks and trying to be more cohesive on that end of the court.”
If it is possible that the team’s early season struggles result from the lack of cohesion and inconsistency of so many new faces stands out. Fortunately, many of the errors that have plagued the Conts in these close games could be corrected, since repetition throughout the season can develop the necessary on-court chemistry.
The signs of development are already evident, but the team has yet to execute a complete 40-minute effort. For instance, though the Continentals turned in their best defensive performance of the young season against Oswego (the Lakers shot just 32.6% from the field), their improvement on that end of the floor was wasted by a 20.8% offensive effort. Still, Howe is encouraged by the signs the young team is showing, and feels the results will come with more experience.
“The team chemistry is progressing–right now we’re still figuring out each player’s role and how to best utilize each person’s talents to win games. It’s been a rough start so far, but we are getting better and have been playing some good basketball recently.”
Hamilton does not play its first NESCAC game until Jan. 4, so there is still plenty of time for the team to make necessary strides before conference play begins. After eight days off, the team resumes competition on Wednesday with a game at Union College, before a pair of weekend games at Utica College and a home game against Morrisville State.