Women’s Basketball Seeded Third, NESCACs Next
Amherst women’s basketball defeated conference No. 1 Trinity and New Jersey City University, extending their win streak to nine games, and placing them at No. 3 in the NESCAC rankings. They enter the NESCAC tournament ranked 11th nationally.
On Friday, Feb. 11, the women’s basketball team secured an impressive 49-42 win over Trinity in a thriller in which neither team led by more than seven points throughout the contest. The win over the Bantams, the top seed in the NESCAC, extended the Mammoths’ win streak to eight, the longest active streak in the conference. Not only did the victory reaffirm the Mammoths’ status as conference title contenders, but it also cemented their status nationally, leaving them with a national ranking of 11 heading into the NESCAC tournament next weekend.
With only two minutes left in the second quarter of the game, AnLing Vera ’25 gave the Mammoths their first lead since Dani Valdez ’22 opened the scoring when Vera completed a three-point play after being fouled on a fast-break layup to bring the score to 15-12. Despite Trinity entering the second half with a 21-19 lead, the Mammoths wouldn’t go away, keeping the game close until Gabrielle Zaffiro ’22 scored a three-pointer in the fourth quarter to give Amherst a lead that they would not give up. And although Trinity’s 29 percent scoring percentage was only 1 percent worse than Amherst’s 30 percent mark, the Mammoths’ aggressiveness proved to be a winning factor: the Mammoths took 11 more shots than Trinity during the contest. Vera led the game in scoring, racking up 20 points and three steals to lead the Mammoths to victory. Valdez also scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds during the closely-fought game. Amherst’s win put them in a tie with Trinity on top of the conference standings, but the Bantams pulled back ahead with a win over Hamilton the following day.
Prior to the game, the Mammoths honored their five outstanding seniors: Jade DuVal ’22, Lauren Pelosi ’22, Courtney Resch ’22, Valdez, and Zaffiro, who were all playing in their final NESCAC regular-season game at LeFrak Gymnasium.
Senior DuVal said, “It feels weird to be nearing the end of my career as a college athlete, but I am excited going into NESCAC playoffs with my team. The other seniors and I have been working hard this year to build a healthier team culture after tough losses on the team two years ago, yet it is our underclassmen who have reminded me of the reasons I love the sport. Whatever happens next all I want is for our team to have a season that brings us joy to look back on.”
That culture was on full display on Monday, Feb. 14, when the Mammoths took on New Jersey City University in their last regular-season contest of the 2021-22 season. In a nail-biter of a game which saw the Mammoths trail for the majority, the team gritted out a four-point win. After a slow start to the game in which neither team could find their rhythm, the Gothic Knights found theirs first, building a nine-point lead with 1:53 to go in the second quarter. But the Mammoths wouldn’t go away: they went on a 7-0 run to close the half only down 28-26. On a day where the shots just wouldn’t fall (the team shot only 28 percent from the field), the Mammoths found a way, keeping the game close and never letting their opponents gain too large of a lead. The turning point came with three and a half minutes to go, when Vera and Kori Barach ’25 hit three-pointers on three straight possessions to turn a six-point deficit into a three point lead that the Mammoths would not give up. After a rollercoaster of a game, the team left Hixon Court with a hard-fought 56-52 win, their ninth victory in a row.
Vera said of the last few games, “I think these past couple of games have really shown us that we are able to come together and pick each other up during some of the toughest moments. We’ve proven to be resilient fighters and I’m excited to see this momentum carry us into the final stretch of the season!”
The Mammoths will look to extend their winning streak next weekend during the NESCAC Championships, entering the tournament ranked third after an incredible regular season: winning the Little Three title, compiling an 18-2 overall record with an 8-2 NESCAC record, and averaging an impressive 13.7 point margin of victory over their opponents over the course of the season.
The NESCAC tournament will look a little different than years past due to Covid causing challenges for rescheduling, and the potential for a disparity in the number of regular-season conference games played. The NESCAC membership has agreed that all NESCAC teams will be included in this year’s basketball championship field. The Mammoths will host the NESCAC Quarterfinals on Sunday, Feb. 20, playing the winner of the game between No. 6 Bowdoin and No. 11 Colby, with tip-off set for 2 p.m. at Lefrak Gymnasium.