Winter break proved to be a tumultuous ride for the women’s basketball team. UR returned to campus to ring in the new year with double sessions and a tough mix of regional and University Athletic Association competition.

Despite losses on the road to UAA opponents New York University and Brandeis University, the Yellow- jackets returned to Rochester and claimed third place in the prestigious JPMorgan Chase Tournament, and registered a solid victory against Case Western Reserve University.

Widely regarded as the premier basketball tournament in the Rochester area, the Chase Tournament draws the most talented teams from upstate New York. UR’s early season efforts were rewarded as they received the No. 1 seed out of a field of eight.

In their first tournament action Tuesday, Jan. 15, UR mimicked their Jan. 9 75-41 trouncing of crosstown foe Rochester Institute of Technology earlier in the week with an 88-47 win. Four Yellowjackets scored in double figures, led by sophomore guard Erika Smith, who finished the game with 14 points, followed by senior guard Jen LaBuda who tallied 13, and freshmen Megan Fish and Kelly Wescott, who added 12 points a piece.

The win over RIT sent UR into a semi-final match against Division II Roberts Wesleyan College at the Louis Alexander Palestra two days later. Despite 18 points from LaBuda and 11 from Smith, UR never fully recovered from a slow start that put them down ten points early in the game. The Raiders capitalized on UR’s turnover frenzy, scoring 30 points directly off of turnovers, while winning the battle in the paint by a 36-20 margin.

While the loss left UR fighting for third place in the consolation match, Roberts Wesleyan moved on to the finals where they became the tournament champions with a 71-61 win over SUNY Brockport.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed, but Roberts gave us a great game ? they came to play, made us step it up, but in the end it was too late,” said junior forward Sarah Sullivan.

Driven by the disappointment of Thursday’s loss, the Yellowjackets returned to the Palestra Saturday, Jan. 19, to defeat Rochester native St. John Fisher College 52-47, and claim third place.

Despite another slow start, UR rallied from a 22-13 deficit at the half to tie the score at 30 with 6:57 left in the game. Fisher momentarily regained the lead with a free throw that put them up 31-30, but UR answered and never looked back.

Smith led the Yellow- jackets with a career high 20 points, while Wescott finished with 12, and sophomore forward Shannon Higgins had nine points and 12 boards. The victory earned head coach Jim Scheible the 175th win of his career, and set UR’s overall record at 10-4.

Scheible was impressed with his team’s ability to rebound from the loss against Roberts Wesleyan and claim a solid victory against Fisher. “We lost to a good scholarship team ? they just outplayed us,” Scheible said. “What was key for us was being able to bounce back and get two good wins over the weekend.”

The second of those two weekend wins came against Case Western Reserve, Sunday, Jan. 20, UR brought its UAA record to 3-2 with an 86-73 win. The victory concluded a four-game week for the Yellowjackets, and keeps them in the mix for a top conference finish.

The Spartans were ranked 16th in the nation among Division III schools by d3hoops.com entering the contest, but faltered in the face of a season’s best 57.7 percent shooting from the floor by UR.

“The Case game was a great team effort,” Sullivan said. “When we come to play and play our game, we’re tough to beat.”

UR had four players in double figures, led by a season-high 21 second-half points from LaBuda. Higgins added 15 points, junior forward Anne Gotstein had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and freshman center Megan Fish finished with 11.

“The team played tremendously against Case,” said Scheible, who emphasized the importance of a united team effort in the win. “Everyone played at a high level ? not just one or two people, that’s what makes us a pretty good team.”

Scheible praised the efforts of LaBuda, Higgins, Smith, and Wescott in particular, but was quick to point out that “it’s hard to point out individuals because we play such a fast paced offensive and defensive game that requires ten or more players playing at a high level.”

UR continues its UAA campaign this weekend, as they travel to Washington University in St. Louis for a 7 p.m. start Friday evening. The Bears, who are ranked No. 1 in the nation, are currently undefeated, with a 16-0 overall record (5-0 UAA). The defending national champion, Wash U. is looking for its fourth in a row, and is notoriously successful on its home court as the program boasts a 101-2 all-time record at home.

Truly, the match-up will be “the ultimate challenge” according to Scheible. “But we’re excited about the opportunity to play the number one team in the country on their floor.”

Sunday, the Yellowjackets move on to play the University of Chicago with a 4 p.m. start at Chicago. The Maroons have struggled a bit this season, with an overall record of 6-9 (2-3 UAA), but are coming off an exceptional 70-64 overtime upset of then ranked No. 3 NYU.

“It’s a tough league we’re in now, but it’s up for grabs at this point and I think that we have just as much chance as any other team and we’re looking forward to proving our abilities in the upcoming games,” said Sullivan. “When we enter each game playing hard at both ends, the game usually takes care of itself”

Seferiadis can be reached at jseferiadis@campustimes.org.



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