MEDFORD, MA - In the final game of the 2018-2019 season, the Williams College women's basketball team (11-14) was defeated by the Tufts University Jumbos (23-2) 75-51. This was the 2019 NESCAC Championship Tournament quarterfinal; going in, Tufts was ranked #3 and Williams was ranked #6.
"Tufts is one of the best teams in the country and they were on fire to start the game," said head coach Pat Manning. "We played well in spurts, but two things that hurt us were turnovers and offensive rebounds. It would seem like we would play really good defense, but then they'd take the shot and get the rebound."
"They both were able to create in the open floor some fantastic one-on-one moves," commented Manning. "[It was] a very impressive performance by both of those kids."
Eph co-captain Lauren Vostal led in rebounds with eight, while Gabby Martin '21 was a force in the paint with her steals and rebounds. Jac Knapp of Tufts racked up 19 points and was the overall top scorer for the Jumbos, while Cailin Harrington was top in rebounds for Tufts with seven.
Tufts looked to push the tempo early on and found themselves easily firing on all cylinders, finding much of their points in three-point shots early in the first quarter. Williams' defense weathered the weight of the Jumbos as Knapp put up seven points for Tufts in under two minutes. Eph sophomore Mikaela Topper evened the score with a three-pointer to tie it up at 7-7, but two three-pointers from Tufts quickly followed to strengthen the Jumbo's lead. Knapp made it into double digits with a further three-pointer with under 20 seconds left to put Tufts at a 31-14 lead at the end of the first.
Meehan and Topper in combination cut down deficit to 12 almost immediately, taking advantage of holes in Tuft's defense and causing Jumbos head coach Carla Berube to call a time-out. The Ephs initially outscored the Jumbos and forced a few turnovers out of the team, but Tuft's infallible defense continued determinedly forward. After a three minute break from scoring, Emily Briggs made a layup for the Jumbos and put her team back on track for the quarter. Williams did not score for the rest of the period, and Tufts increased their lead to 42-23 at the end of the first half.
A full court press from the Jumbos saw another resurgence in scoring for Tufts, taking advantage of Williams' troubles with ball control. Meehan responded by pushing the tempo for the Ephs and trying to regain some momentum. Even with Williams working the ball in and out of the paint, the Jumbos stormed ahead, racking up another 20 points for the quarter. After being denied three-pointers, Meehan drove to the rim to put up points for Williams for a high point in the third period.
In the face of of an almost 30-point deficit, the Ephs gave it their all in the last period, going on to outscore the Jumbos for the first time in the game. A deep three from Topper put Williams up to 38; she would go on to score another six points on top of that for Williams. The teams had an equal number of turnovers for the last quarter; the Eph's offense ran the court to put up 17 points from three players. The final score, however, saw Tufts on top, with the Jumbos winning 75-51.
On heading into the off-season, Manning remarked, "Every season you have to add something to your game and you can't be content with what you did. Adding something offensively to your game, like another shot or move, something like that makes you a more versatile player."
For seniors Lauren Vostal, Lexi Jones, and Caroline Lovisolo, Saturday's game was their final time playing for the Ephs. As co-captains, they led the Ephs through 25 games this season, going 5-5 in conference and pulled off a upset over the Trinity College Bantams. Throughout their four years, they have collectively scored 728 points and seen over 50 hours of game time.