The 2021-2022 season for Amherst women’s basketball was one that will certainly go down in program history. With an appearance in both the NESCAC Championship and the NCAA Tournament Final Four, along with several individual accolades, the team has a lot to be proud of. But they are not satisfied yet.
With four non-conference games — and four wins — under their belts, this year’s team has its sights set on returning to the biggest stage and making it to the national championship. Junior captain Reeya Patel ’24 said coming into the season, “It’s going to be a big difference losing last year's class and having no seniors this year on the team. It was a big jump from playing my first year [of college basketball] to then being a captain and leading the team.” But, Patel says it is easy to lead a team that is receptive to learning and works hard on and off the court.
That approach has been evident in the opening games of the season, with the Mammoths proving that they are able to overcome adversity and come out on top in many different situations. In their contest against No. 16 Springfield College, the Mammoths maintained a lead with a strong defensive performance, while they came from behind late in the game to win a hard-fought matchup against Rowan University.
The Mammoths are hopeful that this strong start is an early sign that the team will be a dominant force in the NESCAC and beyond this season. They have added five new players to their roster this year, including Anna Tranum ’26, Sylvia Liddle ’26, Brooke Ingemi ’26, Annie McCarthy ’26, and Laura Mendell ’26. Ingemi is starting her first week with the team after playing for the women’s soccer team during their Sweet 16 run in the fall. The team boasts more young talent in the sophomore class with Alix Stuart ’25, Maya Cwalina ’25, AnLing Vera ’25, and Kori Barach ’25. And finally the team is led by their three junior captains: Patel, Nicole Stanford ’24, and Abbey Skinner ’24.
Following their strong opening performances in last week’s Tip-off Tournament and starting the season 2-0 at home, Amherst’s win against Gordon College on Wednesday, Nov. 16, showed their proficiency on the road. Though the first couple of quarters did not go the way Amherst might have wanted, with the Mammoths trailing 29-25 with five minutes left to go in the third frame, a 12-0 run over the remaining time netted them a 39-31 lead heading into the fourth. But the Mammoths did not stop there, as they continued to attack the basket on the offensive end and clamped down defensively. They added another 13 points to their total score over the remainder of the game, with points from Tranum, Patel, Liddle, Vera, and Barach to put the game out of reach. When the final buzzer sounded, the Mammoths left Wenham, Mass. for their Thanksgiving break with a 52-41 win. Barach finished with a double-double, scoring 15 points and gathering 11 rebounds and leading the team in both categories. Cwalina added 12 points and was a force in the defensive end all game, finishing with seven rebounds and a ridiculous eight blocks.
The team had almost a full week off before returning to LeFrak Gymnasium for their next game against the Emmanuel College Saints on Tuesday, Nov. 30. The time off may have contributed to the Mammoths’ slow start, as they trailed 13-12 after one quarter of play, shooting just 38.5 percent (5 for 13) during the frame. The Mammoths found their groove in the second quarter, however, shooting 50 percent from the field (8 for 16) and taking a 35-26 lead into halftime. It was much of the same in the third quarter, as the Mammoths outscored the Saints 19 to 8 in the frame to push their lead to 20 points entering the fourth quarter.
Though the game looked to be all but over as the final frame began, the narrative completely shifted during the fourth quarter. The Mammoths went ice cold offensively, scoring just four points and shooting 1 for 13 from the field. The Saints, on the other hand, got red hot — they went on a 19-0 run during the frame, shooting 7 for 13 from the field. Though the game was probably closer than it should have been, as the Saints cut the Mammoths’ lead down to just three points with a little over two minutes remaining in the game, the Mammoths ultimately saw out their lead and defeated the Saints 58-53. Patel finished the game with a double-double, scoring 15 points and adding 13 rebounds. Patel led the team in both categories as well. Barach added 14 points and five rebounds, and she led the game with three steals.
Looking ahead, the Mammoths will travel to New Jersey on Sunday, Dec. 4, to take on New Jersey City University, before returning to LeFrak to play Wesleyan on Monday, Dec. 5, in a non-conference game.