Lady hawks looking to regain focus after recent slide

Andrew Wuebker

Sports Editor

A recent slide for the Roger Williams University women’s basketball team has the squad looking to get back on track as one regular season game remains on their schedule.

Since the team’s 11-game win streak was snapped by the University of New England on Feb. 4, the Lady Hawks (17-7) have lost three of their last four games; the lone victory being a 58-51 triumph over Gordon College last Wednesday, Feb. 8.

The Hawks were in prime position after the Gordon College win to take the first overall seed in the Commonwealth Coast Conference tournament, but back-to-back losses to top CCC opponents Endicott College and Western New England on the road in the last five days have the Lady Hawks on the downturn.

“Our focus for the rest of the season is actually to be focused,” said junior Mariah Nicholas. “We have worked so hard this season and we can’t become complacent at such a crucial time in the season. We need to remain focused during every play and every game, which means doing the little things right, knowing the scouting report, and playing with a different level of passion.”

The back-to-back losses are the first for RWU since their opening two games of the season, putting the team second in the conference with a home bout versus Wentworth Institute of Technology on Saturday, Feb. 18, being their last regular season test.

Most would tend to think a team losing three of their last four games on the final stretch would spell trouble for a squad looking to win the CCC title, but adversity has been no stranger to this group of Hawks.

Roger Williams started the season with a record of 5-4, but with the turn of the new year, reeled off 11-straight wins, despite five players leaving the team in late December. As a result, the win streak showed what this Hawk team could potentially be made out of down the line, catapulting RWU toward the top of the conference with various players stepping up not named Bridget Quilty.

Quilty, the 6-foot-1 senior captain, has of course been spectacular all year, averaging nearly 16 points a game, seven rebounds and two blocks on 50 percent shooting. However, it’s been players like juniors Anna Walther, Stephanie Bramante, Rebecca Ritchie, Teagan Dunn and Mariah Nicholas that have offered a quiet consistency for the Hawks all season long.

Walther has started 23 of 24 games on the season for the Lady Hawks and is second on the team in scoring, averaging just under 11 a game. For Bramante, she has been a solid frontcourt mate for Quilty this season in her third year as a Hawk, with her importance coming mostly on the defensive end. Ritchie has been the team’s primary ball-handler all season, leading the team in assists and steals while starting 23 of 24 games. Lastly, the duo of Nicholas and Dunn off the bench has been big for the Hawks, combining for nearly 12 points a game while also second and third on the team respectively in rebounding.

However, while the upperclassmen seem to have been doing the bulk of the season’s work for the Lady Hawks, the efforts from their freshmen tandem cannot be overlooked either.

Freshmen Sam Leone and Gabby Jerahian have played major minutes for a large part of the season, with Leone specifically starting her last 10 games. In her 10 career starts, Leone has averaged just under 10 points a game in 28 minutes. Not bad for a freshman guard who barely saw the floor in the earlier part of the year.

“Yes, it has definitely been a very interesting first season for the freshmen,” said Leone. “We faced some adversity during the first couple of months of the season. With some people leaving many of the roles on the team changed. I didn’t expect all of this to happen, but Gabby and I were willing to step up and take on the challenges given to us.

“Both Gabby and I have been given a lot of responsibility as freshmen, but with coach [Kelly] Thompson’s trust and help from all the upperclassman we have really gelled as a team,” she added. “Our team chemistry is really strong and I believe that is one of the main reasons for our success so far this season.”

While the team has not looked its prettiest at times in the last few days, there is good news for the Hawks. The potential for a deep CCC tourney run is certainly there when home court advantage comes into play. Roger Williams has defeated top conference opponents University of New England, Endicott and Western New England all at home this season, where the Hawks have an unblemished 9-0 mark. If the Hawks can hold onto the No. 2 seed heading into the postseason, home court could be a significant factor for the first two rounds—pending they get there—however meaningful or meaningless that may actually be.

In terms of statistics, the Hawks have been solid in a number of areas. On defense, the Lady Hawks are at the top of the CCC in opposing field goal percentage, blocks per game and points allowed. On offense, the team is second in the conference in field goal percentage, third in assists and in the upper half for points scored.

Nevertheless, hypotheticals or statistics don’t decide games. Until this group of Hawks and their future foes line it up on the court, outcomes are anybody’s guess. Nicholas already knows it is going to take a commitment from every girl, one through 10, to play better—and better together—to propel this team to their ultimate goal.

“Yes, I fully believe that we can win the championship, but like I said it’s going to take focus and we need to play together,” said Nicholas. “What makes being on this team exciting and fun is the process. Working hard everyday and seeing the results on the court makes it so rewarding for us. I enjoy basketball and it’s great to have the opportunity to play for a amazing team in a good conference. Also, playing with such great girls makes it so much fun too. We are like a big family, which makes our chemistry on the court even better!”

The Hawks will face Wentworth Institute of Technology at home in their last regular season game on Senior Day, Saturday, Feb. 18, at 1 p.m.