The team must somehow strengthen its resolve to stop the losing streak. “Unfortunately, [we] find ourselves in a position where we have to win the last few games in order to continue,” said forward Julie Smith ’06. “But perhaps this will be just the incentive we need to reestablish our winning attitude once again.”
Amherst was evenly matched in its 75-68 loss to Clark. The Jeffs came into the game at 10-8, while the Cougars boasted a 9-9 record. Unfortunately, Amherst got off to a slow start. Clark put a lot of pressure on Amherst with full-court press and quickly built a double-digit lead at 16-4. Offensively, Clark started off hot as well, taking advantage of every open look they got. The Jeffs did not help their situation at all by being unable to take advantage of their advantage in height over the Cougars. Amherst didn’t score many points in the paint and finished the game with only two rebounds more than their smaller opposition. By halftime, little had improved for the Jeffs as the score stood at 41-27.
However, the Jeffs came out pumped at the beginning of the second half and rallied. They were able to trap Clark players and force turnovers, allowing for a cut into Clark’s lead. Shortly thereafter, the Cougars regained their composure and extended their advantage. Amherst went on another run and cut Clark’s lead to four, 58-54. Unable to make free throws down the stretch, the Jeffs found themselves down by 10 points with time running out. LaShauna Barboza ’04 had a career-high 19 points while tri-captain Sarah Walker ’03 recorded a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
The Jeffs attributed their inability to make critical foul shots against Clark to being mentally unprepared. “Foul-shooting is a mental problem,” said Assistant Coach Lynne Cinella. “It is about execution, not practice.”
While Amherst was able to give Clark a tight match, the game against Trinity was a different matter altogether as the Jeffs were overwhelmed by the 6-12 Bantams. Although Smith had a breakout game against Trinity, the rest of the Amherst team did not fare as well. The Bantams took an early advantage and the Jeffs were unable to catch up. “Trinity came out aggressive and the hole was dug too deep,” said Head Coach Billy McBride.
Despite having a significant height advantage once again, the Jeffs only held a slight rebounding edge over the Bantams. The Jeffs continued to struggle without senior point guard Sara Bozorg, coming out flat and allowing Trinity to shut them out for the first four minutes of the game. Unlike the Clark game, the Jeffs never rallied back from the early deficit.
The Jeffs did not get any closer than a seven point deficit at 9-2 for the rest of the game. Trinity took a commanding 47-26 lead at halftime and did not let up, winning 71-52. The loss now ties Amherst with Trinity for eighth place in the NESCAC standings with a 1-6 record.
Players suspect that their recent losses stem from state of mind rather than physical errors. “I feel as though our losses to Clark, Trinity, as well as others, were much more mental than anything, and we, for whatever reason, have not been showing up to play,” said Barboza.
If the Jeffs hope to make the postseason, they must fix a problem that plagued them in both games-turnovers. “We had too many unforced turnovers. We need to be mentally tough and make the right decisions,” said McBride.
Amherst will play its last home game tonight against Springfield College. Then they face NESCAC rival Connecticut College and Little III rival Wesleyan University before finishing up the regular season at Wellesley College on Feb. 18. According to McBride, the Jeffs must win both NESCAC games to have a chance at qualifying for the NESCAC tournament. Despite their downward trend, the Jeffs still have a positive attitude. “We still have a chance. We are not demoralized,” said McBride. “We have to rise up to the challenge and something positive can happen. We will continue to play players and hopefully they will gain confidence in each other.”
The players on the team share their coach’s bright outlook for the upcoming games. “We have a great deal of ability among us; right now it is just a matter of honing in on that capability when we need it most,” Smith said. “If we are able to regain our winning mentality, there is no doubt in my mind that we can qualify for the upcoming NESCAC tournament, and surprise some teams there.”