by Allison Venella
The women’s basketball team kicked off its season with a split in two non-conference games this past weekend. The team held off the La Salle Explorers in a 64-58 season-opening win but fell to Loyola (Md.) in a heartbreaker, losing 49-47.
The young team opened its season last Friday night away at La Salle. This win was the third season opener win for the Wildcats in four years. Senior captain Stacie Witman led the team with a career-high 31 points. She went 10-21 from the field and hit five 3-pointers to help secure the win for the team.
La Salle and Villanova were evenly matched teams, as shown by the close final score. The Villanova squad did more things right to keep the momentum going its way the whole game. Early in the game, Villanova scored 15 unanswered points while running the floor to create opportunities. Witman scored 10 of her points during this drive to take the team to a 44-27 lead. The Explorers did, however, come back to create some points of their own.
La Salle had four different players spur a comeback that left the game to be decided down to the final 10 minutes. With just under 10 minutes to play, La Salle came back to within two points, but when Witman hit back-to-back 3-point shots, the La Salle team was yet again playing catch-up.
“We just tried to keep our heads in the game in those last 10 minutes,” Witman said. “It was important for us to stick together as a team and come out with a ‘W.’ “
Witman got help on the scoring end from junior Laura Kurz, who added nine points, and sophomore Maria Getty who scored seven with five rebounds and four steals. Sophomore Tia Grant added six points and, along with Getty, combined for eight assists.
The Explorer’s main offense came from Carlene Hightower, who scored 20 points with 13 rebounds, and Jamie Walsh, who scored 10 points.
After the season-opening win, the Wildcat’s traveled to Loyola, Md., for a matchup against the Greyhounds. The team lost the game 49-47 but did not go down without a fight.
The game started with both teams coming out strong, but as the game went on, both teams’ performances showed that the game was going to come down to the final minutes. Villanova scored few points in the second half, which plagued the team in the end. The two teams stayed consistently within reach of one another, with the score remaining within eight the whole game.
But when it came down to the final five minutes, the Greyhounds had timely scoring that allowed them to come out on top. With about two minutes left, Kurz was able to give Villanova the lead at 44-42. Villanova went on to not score again until the final buzzer, and the Greyhounds points remained unanswered.
Loyola’s Meghan Wood tied the score at 44-44, and then with a missed shot by Villanova, Tynisha Davis was able to run the floor and make a lay-up to give the team a 46-44 lead. Villanova then committed a foul, and Candice Walker was able to sink by free throws to make it a four-point lead. Villanova’s junior Lisa Karcic sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was not enough to win the game.
The lack of shooting caused Villanova to lose the game, but its defensive efforts did hold Loyola’s players to few points. Loyola only had one player reach 10 points, and its leading scorer was only able to get in three.
Karcic led both teams by scoring 16 points, while Kurz added 10, and Witman added nine. Grant added four points and four assists.
In the first two games Villanova shot 94.7 percent at the free-throw line.
“All of our non-conference games are going to be tough because they aren’t going to be easy wins for us,” Witman said. “All of those teams will be good practice because each game is an opportunity to learn and grow as a team.”
The Wildcat’s first five games of the season will all be played on the road. The team will practice this week and will prepare for next weekend’s contest against Monmouth.