To open their 2023-2024 campaign, the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team started fast and with authority, taking down Moravian University and Hartwick College on Nov. 8 and Nov. 11, respectively. These games were both at home in the famous Memorial Hall, known to avid Muhlenberg basketball fans as ‘the Mecca of Centennial Conference basketball.’ This new journey for the team has just begun, but there are numerous positives for the Mules to be excited about as they push forward into the heart of this season.
When reflecting on the first two games, Forward Avery McNulty ‘26 said, “I think both games went really well for us. I can see how much we have improved from last year in everything we do. I think our defense has stepped up this year. We know what positions to be in most of the time, and our communication is much better. One thing we need to improve on is executing on offense and not letting up when we have a lead.”
Forward/Center Caroline Horst ‘24 had similar things to add. “I was happy with how we responded to close game situations. Even if we were not hitting our shots, we continued playing solid defense and rebounded well to keep us in the game; which we need to continue to do throughout the season,” said Horst.
The Mules outperformed both opponents in field goal percentage, blocks, steals and forced turnovers. This is a testament to their stingy and relentless defense, especially in forcing turnovers, as Moravian and Hartwick turned the ball over a combined 35 times, with the Mules only committing 18 turnovers, with nine coming in each game.
Something else the team has done well is their off-court preparation, with Assistant Coach Sadie Nelson leading detailed film sessions before games where the players can gain an understanding of desired in-game strategy and tactics for each matchup. “I think we executed well against both of these teams,” commented McNulty. “Our scouting from our new assistant Sadie has been tremendous with letting us know what we have to do. We had some players that we needed to do specific things for. For example, with Moravian, we needed to keep their post player off the offensive and defensive boards and not let her get any easy looks at the basket, and our defenders did just that.”
Since basketball teams in the Centennial Conference need to play each other twice, once at home and once on the road, throughout a traditional regular season, the Mules are only a few games away from opening their conference schedule. They will travel to Swarthmore on Tuesday, Nov. 21, so these games are also acting as a test run for the team to sharpen the iron before then. “Something we want to work on for Swarthmore is our transition offense,” explained Point Guard Ava Connolly ‘25. “It’s something we have been working on in practice but have trouble executing in games. If we can add that component to our game, it can give us a few extra points which may help us in close games.”
When asked about their Swarthmore matchup, McNulty added, “I think some things we need to sharpen up before Swarthmore is our ball pressure and help defense in the post. They have one of the best post players in the conference returning, and I think more pressure on the ball will make the passes tougher for her. Also, more help in the post could help us out with limiting her points in the paint.”
The team is returning most of its players from last year and only added two first-years with their newest recruiting class, meaning team cohesion is already close to surpassing a very high threshold from last year. Especially in the collegiate game, where it is typical to have high rates of roster circulation, such a large amount of returners is a rare, beneficial foundation of success for this Mules team. “Our team chemistry is strong,” relayed Connolly. “With only one senior leaving last year and only two incoming freshmen, we have a lot of experienced returners. We are definitely a very close-knit group and I can definitely tell there is more of a chemistry on the court this season after last year’s season.
McNulty echoed a similar message, “We are together 24/7, which really translates to the court. This has definitely helped us with being more connected and having a groove when we are playing.”
The Mules will look to continue their hot start to the season when they travel up to Westfield, Massachusetts, to participate in the Westfield Gas and Electric Tip-Off Tournament. They will open the event against Eastern Connecticut State on Friday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m.