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March 9, 2004

Young core set to lead women's basketball

Women's basketball came in with high hopes but closed out their season on a low note Saturday at Ratner.

The women's team lost their final game of the season to the NCAA tournament-bound Washington University Bears 73-47. The loss dropped the team's overall record to 10-15, 5-9 against conference opponents.

"I thought we had learned a lot from our first meeting with Wash U and that we'd really be able to apply what we learned. But once again, they got way too many offensive boards," said second-year forward Susie Gutowski, who was named to the UAA second team last Tuesday.

Washington out-rebounded the Maroons 46-25 to maintain control over the course of the game. They were also able to neutralize any Maroon advantage on the foul line, limiting the home team to 16 free throw attempts compared to their 30.

The Maroons kept the game close early in the first half with solid shooting. First-year point guard Korry Schwanz hit a three-pointer that cut Washington's lead to 15-18.

The 10th-ranked Bears, led by guard Sarah Schell, immediately responded with a 12-0 run, and the Maroons never came closer than 10 points for the remainder of the game. The team struggled on offense despite big performances from Schwanz, who contributed 13 points, and fourth-year forward Angel Korer, who had 15 points in her final collegiate game.

"We'll definitely miss Angel, Michele Catalano, and Paula Lepka next year. They were great leaders for us and contributed so much in both games and practice," Schwanz said. "We'll all need to step up next year to fill the void left by the seniors."

As the Maroons' third consecutive losing campaign drew to a close, the team still had a number of reasons to be optimistic. Schwanz was named UAA Rookie of the Year, an award Gutowski won last year. Second-year forward Jenn Kaiser improved to become a valuable contributor.

Perhaps most memorable game of the season was the team's upset victory over number-22 Brandeis on February 22, which ended the Judges' playoff hopes.

"I think Brandeis at home was the best game we played this year," Schwanz said. "We really came together as a team and controlled the game against a ranked opponent. There were a lot of games this year where we were close right up until the end but couldn't pull it off. Against Brandeis, we maintained the lead and played confidently and as a team. After a tough loss to NYU, I was really proud of our effort."

Gutowski agreed, adding, "I don't think they were looking past us but they were a ranked team and we had a losing record. We played so hard and didn't let up. We boxed out, passed well, and did all the little things, and it showed."

The team-first mentality that coach Jennifer Kroll emphasized for this season has also played a big part in getting the Maroons headed in the right direction.

"I can't think of anyone on the team who was the MVP, because so many people excelled in different areas. Paula and Angel's rebounding was always great, [second-year guard] Janae Winner is a great passer, Korry was great at penetrating and scoring, and our bench contributed so much," Gutowski said. "No individual really carried the team."

The bright spots, however, were often overshadowed by close losses and inconsistency.

"NYU was a tough home loss. We played them really close at their place and felt we could really take them out. We just let them do whatever they wanted. We looked tired and lazy," Gutowski said.

The UAA provided some stiff competition this year. It sent three teams to the NCAA tournament, a rarity in Division III women's basketball. In addition to league co-champions 8th-ranked NYU and 10th-ranked Washington, 11th-ranked Rochester also received an at-large bid.

Even with the loss of forwards Korer and Catalano and guard Lepka to graduation, the Maroons are looking forward to getting back on the court after a long offseason of training.

"I have high expectations for next season. Hopefully we'll bring in some good recruits, and everybody will get in the gym this summer to improve her game to help the team. We have the potential to be a very strong team next year," Schwanz said. "If everybody works on getting better individually, it will only help us as a team next season."

The Maroons' individual strengths translated into three postseason awards. Schwanz earned an honorable mention for the all-UAA team in addition to her Rookie of the Year honors. She led the team in scoring, assists, and three point field goals.