While Saturday evening's 83-54 road loss to the top-ranked Washington University (St. Louis) Bears left the Maroon women's basketball team with a final record of 11-14 overall and 5-9 in the University Athletic Association, the unranked Chicago had little to be embarrassed about. The Bears, who are 24-1 overall and 13-1 in conference play, are favored by many in Division III to win the NCAA Championship Tournament.
"We didn't play as tentatively against Washington this time," said Chicago head coach Jennifer Kroll. "We knew more of what to expect this go-around. Plus, it was our last game of the year, all pressure off, nothing to lose. I asked the players to go out and play aggressive and to leave everything on the floor--they did that, and I was very proud of their effort."
The Maroons were in fact able to hold their own against Washington early in the game. In the opening five minutes first-year Janae Winner broke into the paint for an early lay-up and then hit two three-pointers, giving Chicago a 12-10 lead. At that point the Bears took over the lead and the game, building a 49-31 advantage by halftime. While Kroll was impressed with the play of the opposition, she was less than happy with the way the officials' calls were going.
"[Washington] shot 20 foul shots in the first half alone," noted Kroll of a Bears team that hardly needed the help.
The second half picked up right where the first had ended as the Bears continued to shoot well and get Chicago into foul trouble. By the end of the game, four Maroons were just one whistle away from fouling out. Even so, the Chicago players were able to keep their heads in the game and prevented Washington from winning the turnover battle. A key difference in the game was the Maroons' outside shooting. Chicago went a meager 2-12 from beyond the arc in the second half, thus killing any chance of a comeback.
Chicago's standout player of the game was third-year Angel Korer, who lead the Maroons with 14 points and hit seven out of 11 shots from the floor. According to Kroll, Korer, who also added five rebounds and an assist, has been Chicago's most consistent player since its opening UAA game in January.
Second-year Daniela Lieber also had praise for her teammate. "Angel really stepped it up toward the last part of the season. I think she always plays hard, but she makes less unforced mistakes and really applies what we learn in practice every day to her games."
During a year in which youth, injury, and leadership issues have often hindered the Maroons, it has at times been difficult to see the season's silver lining. Lieber commented on the team's fortunes, saying "We had a young team this year, with six freshman out of our 15 total players. We have an abundance of talent, and I think this year we struggled in channeling that talent and enthusiasm for the game into a powerful unit. This would account partially for our extreme ups and downs."
"It hurts to know that we are not respected in the league even though we have come up with some really big wins. Because we have not been consistent, we have not gained respect, but our consistency is going to come in part in truly believing in our talents," Lieber continued.
Despite the loss of its two fourth-years, Laura Hebel and Jaimie Bleck, the team believes that the future looks remarkably bright. "Having such a young team with ample experience now, I expect to use that to our advantage next year," said Kroll. "We will be working diligently in the off-season to improve individually."
Three returning players received awards for their individual performances. Korer was named a second-team All-UAA player, while third-year Paula Lepka and first-year Susan Gutowski each received an honorable mention to the All-UAA team. Gutowski, whose strong college debut drew the attention of the entire conference, was also named UAA Rookie of the Year.