After dropping the season finale, the squad now turns their attention to next season
By Joshua Lederman
Senior Staff Writer
On Saturday, Feb. 22, the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team traveled to Gettysburg to play their final game of the season. A win earlier in the week against Bryn Mawr put them in a three-way tie with Swarthmore and Franklin & Marshall for fifth place in the Centennial Conference standings. A win at Gettysburg meant that the Mules would clinch a Conference playoff berth for the sixteenth straight year. However, the Mules faced no easy task, as Gettysburg had received votes in the D3Hoops.com Top 25 poll and had a record of 20-4 coming into the season finale.
After a high-scoring first quarter in which the Mules found themselves down by just one, the Bullets dominated the second quarter, extending their lead to ten at halftime. The Bullets continued their dominant play into the third quarter, and while the Mules put up a valiant comeback afterwards in the fourth quarter, they fell 72-60 and missed the Centennial Conference Playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Despite not clinching a playoff berth, Head Coach Ron Rohn credits the resilience of his team after their slow start before the new year. “After a 2-7 start, the team responded after the Christmas Break with a nice 8-2 run,” Rohn said. “That showed a lot of determination from our team. They did not hang their heads, kept working, and remained positive. Those are great qualities and it put us back in the play-off race. Our seniors deserve a good deal of the credit … they kept the team working hard and together and never gave up.”
For forward Margaux Eripret ‘22, seeing the team’s improvement over the course of the season builds great excitement for a young team that hopes to take a big step forward next year. “I think my biggest takeaway from this season is the potential that this team has,” said Eripret. “We had spurts where we were playing really good team basketball, which was so great to see, and it was fun to play. Our team is pretty young, and we now have another season under our belts, and with experience comes confidence, which is important for a team to be successful.”
Looking ahead to next season, the Mules return five of their six top scorers from this past season, which is pivotal for a squad looking to improve on the offensive end. Despite losing senior leadership, the Mules will return plenty of experience as eight players will return having played in at least 20 games last season. Rohn believes that the individual talent returning to the team next year plus an improved offense will propel the Mules to a Centennial Conference Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth.
“Our goals will be to win the Centennial Conference Championship and then make a run in the NCAA Tournament,” said Rohn. “I believe we will have the individual talent to achieve those goals, and if our team works together as is our tradition, then we could have a terrific season. Our defense was strong all year, but it took half the season this year to get the offense clicking. I think next year, the offense will really take off, which will make us a tough team to handle.”
In order to achieve that goal, Eripret emphasizes the need to improve during the off-season. “The ultimate goal is obviously to get ourselves back into the playoffs and win a championship, but it starts now,” said Eripret. “We can always work on getting stronger, our fundamentals, our shooting and our conditioning.”
She also recognizes that the team must play consistent basketball throughout the season in order to reach the top of the Centennial Conference standings. “I think the area we need to improve the most is our consistency. Once we consistently play well and play together, I think we’ll be hard to stop,” Eripret continued.
While the regular season doesn’t tip-off until November, the Mules are already looking forward to next season, hoping to make a deep run in postseason play with an improved group of returning players. Rohn exclaims, “I think the young players took tremendous steps forward this year, so if they keep moving in that direction and apply the lessons they have learned from our graduating senior class, then we will not just make the playoffs, but once again be one of the teams to beat in February and March. I can’t wait to get started on that journey.”