Following a 22-point win over Wisconsin-Parkside on Nov. 19, the Hillsdale College women basketball went 1 – 1 at the Ashland Thanksgiving tournament, giving it a 5 – 1 record, so far.
The Chargers struggled offensively against Mercyhurst on Saturday, but beat Slippery Rock University with a strong final quarter on Sunday.
“We’re just in a better position this year compared to last year at this point,” head coach Todd Mitmesser said. Though the team started with a 4 – 2 record last year, the early competition has been stiffer this season. “The teams we’ve played this year are better. The GLIAC is very, very tough and we can’t have an off night against anybody.”
Tonight, the Chargers will take on Saginaw Valley State University (4 – 1) on the road.
Going into the fourth quarter of the Slippery Rock matchup, the teams were tied at 48 points. They battled back and forth, tying the game three more times in the quarter. With 44 seconds left, sophomore forward Brittany Gray put up a 3-point jump shot to pull ahead.
“That was a huge part of the game, a turnaround,” sophomore guard Michele Boykin said. “It came right down to the last second, and it was hard to keep them contained, because it was such a close game. Going into the game after a tough loss, we all knew we had to be positive, to know it’s a new day, and we can’t win them all.”
Though she missed most of last season due to injury, Boykin played 30 minutes of the SRU game, with both senior guard Becca Scherting and sophomore guard Allie Dewire out for injury.
“It was very stressful. Since it was my first college game in that kind of situation, it was very mentally draining and physically draining, but I feel like I matured, and we all did through that game because we didn’t have our main guards in,” Boykin said. “It was a different type of game for me. I was the leading point guard, the one calling the plays. Overall, it was a good game for all of us. We out hustled the other team.”
Junior center Allie Dittmer led the team in scoring with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Maddy Reed rebounded a career high of 15 and scored 12 points.
“We executed well at the end of the game, which we kind of struggled with last year,” Reed said. “We made some free throws at the end when they started to foul, and those were really important. I think it was kind of a good way to end our non-conference part of the season.”
The SRU game followed a tough loss against Mercyhurst, who beat Hillsdale by eight points last season.
“They shot the ball better. They shot, I think, 58 percent, and we just didn’t execute things the way we wanted to defensively. We made too many errors offensively,” Mitmesser said. “We made some nice plays, but too many errors to make up for our defense. Mercyhurst is a good team: they have six seniors, they’re well-balanced, and they use their experience well.”
The Chargers started the second half with an 11-point deficit. Though they matched Mercyhurst in points in the second half, they couldn’t recover.
Dewire’s 13 points were a season high, Gray scored 11, and Reed grabbed 11 rebounds — a career high before the SRU game.
“They were a good team going in, our best competition so far. They also played a pretty aggressive defense, and we knew we had to handle the pressure of their defense,” Reed said. “Even though we lost, we learned a lot from the loss and were able to come back the day after and get the win, which is a hard turnaround, especially with two key players out.”
On Nov. 19, the Chargers took home a big win against Wis.-Parkside, pulling from their deep bench to tire out the opponents.
“I know we ran them a bunch. That was our main goal: to run the opponents off the court. That was what we focused on during preseason, getting in shape and being able to run,” Boykin said.
According to Reed, their aggressive defense helped them develop a lead, and once they got started they didn’t let Wis.-Parkside back into the game.
Reed, senior guard Morgan Blair, sophomore forward Makenna Ott, and Dittmer each scored double digits to help lead the team to victory.
Tonight, the Chargers will battle one of the top GLIAC teams, Saginaw Valley, who beat Hillsdale in both games last season. On Saturday, they’ll play Wayne State, another GLIAC team.
“Saginaw on Thursday is the defending GLIAC North champions,” Mitmesser said. “They have a really nice team back this year: a lot of experience, an all-American post player, the freshman of the year last year. We played them very close both games last year, so we’re going to have to execute and continue to get better Thursday night.”