Women’s basketball ready for playoff push

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The snow on the ground may have kept some outdoor-based teams from continuing their training or at least made them adjust their routines. However, the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team experienced no such impediments as they carried out the middle third of their season over the last month. 

After starting the season strongly, taking down a preseason nationally-ranked DeSales squad, and winning the Westfield Gas and Electric Tip-Off Tournament, the team found their conference opponents a taller task. The team currently sits seventh in the Centennial Conference [CC] standings, with an in-conference record of 6-8 (11-8 overall) and six games remaining, all against CC foes. The good news, however, is that they are still very much alive in the playoff picture, and with several key victories down the stretch, they have the potential to find themselves occupying a top-four seed come the end of the regular season. 

As of late, before defeating Washington College  66-54 on Saturday, Jan. 27, led by a stellar 27-point performance by Point Guard Ava Connolly ‘25, the Mules split games with Ursinus and Dickinson, winning the former at home 56-36 and dropping the latter in Carlisle, Pa. 54-42. With those teams sitting at fourth and third respectively, winning one and losing one is not the end-all-be-all. 

Abigail Scheidel ‘24 reflected on the performances. “I think that some of the things we did well in these games were following our scout,” said Scheidel. “We spent a lot of time going over team personnel before the game, and I think our defense against both teams was really good, but especially Ursinus. I think something to learn is to get the ball into the post more to get more opportunities for our forwards, but also to get better shots by getting the ball into the paint and looking for an inside-out play for our guards to have more open looks when the defense collapses.”

Unity has been a big theme for the squad throughout the entire season, and in moments like these last six games, it will play a large role in matchups come February. Shooting guard Rachel Saxton ‘25 commented on what the team has been working on: “Throughout the season, I think one thing that has worked for us has been sticking to what we know best and running our offensive sets. The team’s attitude and confidence have been great this year, supporting each other and making sure we take the most open shots. In practice, we’ve focused on our defense, rebounding and communication, especially making sure as a team we move together both on offense and defense.”

The team has been gearing up for this final playoff push for weeks now, and the vibe around the Mules radiates competitive energy and a desire to execute. “I think that [this stretch] is a very crucial part of our season,” added Scheidel. “It all comes down to executing when the game is on the line. We need to be more sharp at the end of games to win in close game situations. Winning against [Washington College] definitely gave us an upper hand for playoff contention.”

Along with the on-court work the team has been putting in, an emphasis has also been placed on transparency amongst players and coaches, as well as recovery and well-being. “The basketball season is long, and with school and extracurriculars, it puts a lot of stress on us mentally and physically,” explained Saxton. “However, I would say that we have really strong chemistry on and off the court, so knowing that my teammates have my back helps a lot, especially now that we are trying to make our ‘playoff push.’ Our coaches have also been very understanding, and we’ve done a lot more recovery after practice this year compared to previous years.”

The Mules rank first in made three-point field goals and fourth in three-point field goal percentage in the Centennial Conference– a testament to their style of play. “I wouldn’t consider it a focal point,” said Saxton. “However, we have a lot of strong shooters on the team, and we trust each other that when the ball is in the air, it’s going in the basket. Coach has also always said that basketball is an ‘in and out’ game, so when everyone touches the ball during a possession it makes it hard to stop, especially when you have five players on the court who can score in several different ways.” 

All of the statistics and strategies are a wash if the team is not bought into a common goal, and this team certainly has that quality. Saxton affirmed, “I remember after the Gettysburg game on Jan. 11, Coach Rohn asked the team, ‘What is your goal this year?’ And everyone on the team said, ‘We want to make playoffs.’ So, it’s very nice to see that every individual on the team wants to win.” 

Catch the Mules in action on Centennial Conference TV on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 1:00 when they travel to Lancaster, Pa., to take on Franklin and Marshall. 

Evan is a media and communication major minoring in creative writing and journalism with a passion for sports writing as well as soccer, being outdoors and spending time with close friends and family. He is eager to continue learning about and tinkering with writing while learning from the talented Weekly staff.

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