The Mary Washington women’s basketball team suffered a home loss in their season opener to the Washington and Lee University Generals by a score of 54-49.
Both teams struggled to score early, as the Eagles shot a putrid 13.6 percent from the field in the first half, making just three of 22 attempts. The visiting Generals weren’t much better offensively, as they shot just 19 percent from the field in the opening half. Washington & Lee led the defensive slugfest 18-11 at halftime.
“We didn’t have enough intensity at the beginning and it was hard to catch back up,” UMW freshman guard Sam Partonen said.
Despite the offensive difficulties in the first half, the Eagles were still in the game down just seven points. But UMW’s offensive deficiencies continued after intermission and their defense began to falter as well, as Washington & Lee started the second half on a 9-0 run to push their lead to 27-11.
The Eagles offense picked up as the half went on, and they ended up shooting an impressive 53.6 percent from the field after the break. Junior guard Rachel Martin, who led the team with 23 points on 9-11 shooting, credited the increased tempo with the improved offense.
“We started to push the ball more [in the second half] and play our own style instead of theirs,” Martin said. “Sam [Partonen] controlled the tempo of the game.”
Mary Washington struggled throughout with turnovers and poor free throw shooting, as the team committed 18 turnovers and shot just 58.3 percent from the charity stripe in the game. The Generals had a high turnover number as well with 16, but they were extremely efficient in capitalizing on their free throw opportunities, connecting on 86.4 percent of their attempts.
Martin caught fire late in the game, as she made four consecutive three-pointers to close out the game and scored the last 16 points for the Eagles. However, the hole was too big to overcome, as UMW fell to 0-1 on the season with the 54-49 loss.
“[We needed to] pick up defense intensity. We didn’t box out, and let them out-rebound us. We didn’t get our teammates up, and we turned over the ball too much.”
Following a 22-6 season last year, high expectations carried into this season, as the women’s basketball team was pre-season ranked 17th among Division III teams by D3hoops.com. The early season loss both disappointed and got the attention of the players.
“It was a reality check,” Partonen said. “Coming off the scrimmage, we didn’t come off serious enough, and we have to work harder.”
This was only the first game of the season, so there is time for the team to work through their difficulties. The Eagles’ next chance to correct their mistakes will come tomorrow, Nov. 19, when they travel take on Randolph-Macon College at 6 p.m.