The Elizabethtown College women’s basketball team entered the new year as owners of an undefeated record through their first nine games. The 2014 portion of the season included a championship title at the Terry Greene Memorial Tournament and two victories down in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Since the start of 2015, the Blue Jays have run into a tough stretch of their Landmark Conference schedule, facing the top two teams in the league in their first two games. The Blue Jays entered last Wednesday night’s contest at Drew University as losers of three of their last four games. The game at Drew was also the first of three straight road conference games for Etown.
Etown went into the game holding sole possession of fifth place in the Landmark Conference, one game ahead of the Rangers. Drew came out shooting the ball well at home, knocking down three of their first five shots to take a 7-2 advantage over the Blue Jays just three minutes into the game. Junior guard Rachel Forjan scored Etown’s first points of the game, however the Blue Jays went scoreless for three minutes of action after her basket. After back-to-back layups by sophomore forward Emily Martin brought Etown within two, Drew stretched the lead to five on a three-pointer.
After the game was tied multiple times throughout the first half, the Rangers went on an 11-4 run to end the half and hold a 28-21 lead over the Blue Jays. Senior forward Taylor Alwine kept Etown in the game late, scoring 12 of her team-high 16 points in the second half. The Rangers had too much offensive firepower and held on for a 65-51 victory over the Blue Jays.
Junior forward Alyssa Aichele played all 40 minutes and scored seven points, grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and dished out a team-high five assists. Martin finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, while Forjan chipped in with 10 points.
The Blue Jays shot just 33 percent from the field and only connected on three of their 18 three-pointers. Drew’s nine three-pointers and 10 to four advantage at the free throw line proved to be the big differences in the contest.
“After our loss at Drew we all got together and talked. We knew that we needed to change a few things because we just weren’t clicking in practices or games,” Alwine said. “After one or two losses it was like we became unsure of ourselves as a team and since talking about it, we’ve made adjustments at practices and I think that translated over into our game on Saturday.”
In the Blue Jays’ next game, they traveled to Goucher College with hopes of snapping a two-game losing streak and earn their 10th win of the season. Goucher entered Saturday’s contest still searching for their first win in the Landmark Conference.
Both teams traded baskets early in the game, exchanging the lead on almost every possession. The Blue Jays began to pull away late in the first half, extending its lead to double-digits at halftime behind Forjan’s 15 point first-half performance. Etown’s starters accounted for 29 of the team’s 35 first half points, as the Blue Jays held a 35-24 lead at intermission.
The second half proved to be a different story early on with the Gophers starting the half on a 15-6 run to cut the Blue Jays lead to just two points with 11:18 remaining in the game. The Gophers hung around for a while, keeping the game within five points for most of the second half before Etown began to pull away once again. Behind a game-high 17 points from Forjan and 11 points from Alwine, the Blue Jays went on to defeat Goucher 62-49, earning their fourth Landmark victory of the season.
“Even when it got close at the beginning of the second half, we didn’t get flustered or panic; we just kept encouraging each other, picked up our intensity and focused on playing smart basketball,” Alwine said. “I think coming out with a win will really help us get back on track and help everyone get back their confidence.”
Pennell finished the game with six points and six assists, while Aichele recorded seven points and six rebounds. Pennell and Martin combined to shoot eight of 12 from the free throw line on the afternoon.
The Blue Jays finished a stretch of three games in six days when they traveled to the United States Merchant Marine Academy on Monday afternoon. Etown defeated the Mariners 65-39 at home back in December.
Etown jumped all over the Mariners early and often. Ten different Blue Jays scored in a first-half that saw Etown shoot over 50 percent from the field. Forjan, senior forward Erika Ferro and first-year Emma Hoesman led the Jays with six points each in the first half, giving Etown a 40-13 lead at halftime.
The second half proved to be much like the first with the Blue Jays outhustling, outrebounding and, most importantly, outscoring the Mariners.
The Jays’ bench outscored U.S. Merchant Marine’s bench 46-11 en route to a 77-36 victory. Etown is now 5-4 in the Landmark Conference and 11-4 overall. The team sits in fifth place overall in a very competitive Landmark Conference that takes the top four teams at season’s end for the playoffs.
“I would say that the competition is very much similar to our competition in past seasons. Although I do feel like the teams in the Landmark play more of a game based on just pure heart and hustle, or playing a ‘blue collar’ style of basketball than the competition we played against in the MAC,” Alwine said. “That has made the season very interesting for us and I think because of the somewhat equal playing field, it is difficult to predict where everyone will end up once the regular season ends. However, if we can continue to work for each other and keep up our intensity and focus, then I believe we can easily claim a spot in the playoffs.”
The Blue Jays will return to action on Saturday when they host Susquehanna University in their first home game since Jan. 10.