Preview: Women's Basketball Aims to Reclaim Trophy

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
 

Men’s basketball preview

The Gettysburg women’s basketball team has something that the members of the Muhlenberg team feel belongs to them. Tomorrow night, the Mules will take the first step in getting it back.

Colleen Caldwell
Caldwell is fifth in the CC in assists per game and ninth in steals per game. She is five assists away from cracking the top 10 on the Mules' all-time career list.
In a matchup of teams that combined to win the last three championships, fourth-seeded Muhlenberg (16-9) hosts fifth-seeded Gettysburg (15-9) in a Centennial Conference first-round playoff game, with the winner advancing to face top seed and host Haverford (21-3) in a semifinal game on Friday night. McDaniel (19-5) and Johns Hopkins (17-7) meet in the other semi.

The CC trophy took up residence in Memorial Hall when the Mules won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012, but they were thwarted in their attempt for the first “three-peat” in league history when they lost to Swarthmore in a semifinal game at Gettysburg last winter. Gettysburg beat Swarthmore the next day to win its first CC title.

“It’s almost like we wouldn’t be satisfied if we didn’t win the championship,” said senior Colleen Caldwell. “We feel like last year was a hiccup. I just didn’t expect the season to end in that game. I don’t think anyone did.”

Erin Laney
Senior Erin Laney was one of two Mules to record a double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds, in the second Gettysburg games.
High postseason expectations are natural for a program that has won a league-high seven championships, including four in the last six years. The Mules have qualified for the postseason in all but one of the 21 years of the CC’s existence and have an 18-12 CC playoff record. Only two of the seven titles came when Muhlenberg was the top seed.

“We care about winning during the regular season, obviously, but we are just able to come together and find our own niche better in the postseason,” said Caldwell. “It all comes together when it matters the most.”

It’s been a challenge, more so than in recent years, for Muhlenberg to find its niche this season. Traditionally a man-to-man defensive team that ran a guard-oriented offense, the Mules were 5-6 – with two of the wins coming by one point in overtime against teams that did not qualify for the CC playoffs – in early January before making some wholesale changes.

Interestingly, the game that turned their season around was a home meeting against Gettysburg. Overcoming an eight-point first-half deficit, the Mules went ahead for good with 11:31 left and blocked a potential game-tying three-point shot in the final 15 seconds en route to a 62-57 victory against the defending champions.

Since then, Muhlenberg is 11-3.

“At first it was hard to say who would play best with who and what style we’d play,” recalled Caldwell. “And it was a shock that things weren’t working, so our confidence was down. Now everyone is ready to play.”

The team they’re ready to play tomorrow night is a formidable opponent despite coming into the tournament with three losses in its last four games. Gettysburg is a veteran team that starts three seniors and has the postseason experience of last year. The Bullets rank 16th in Division III in field-goal percentage defense (.330) and 27th in scoring defense (53.5 points per game).

The last time the teams met, the Mules played one of their sloppiest games of the season, committing 31 turnovers and shooting only 26 percent from the field in a 63-50 loss.

“Not everything was going our way last time,” said Caldwell in a bit of an understatement. “Hopefully we’ve come a long way from that game. We wanted to have the opportunity to win this time. It needs to be settled in the right way.”

Notes: This is Muhlenberg’s first time playing in the 4-5 game. The Mules are 3-0 against Gettysburg in the CC playoffs, the most recent win coming in a 2011 semifinal. Muhlenberg hasn’t hosted a playoff game since dropping the 2010 CC title contest to McDaniel ... Gettysburg is in the CC playoffs for the 12th time. The Bullets reached the championship game twice (2008 and 2013) but lost their first tournament game in their other nine appearances. Since the CC went to a five-team tournament in 2005, no fifth seed has even made it to the championship game.