The Salisbury University women’s basketball team is about to go to a place that it hasn’t been to in over a decade.
This weekend, the No. 11 Sea Gulls will travel to Montclair State University to compete in the sectional semi-finals – also known as the Sweet 16 – of the NCAA Division III tournament. The Sea Gulls will face off on the hardwood against the No. 12 Amherst College Jeffs.
In their win against the Stockton University Ospreys on Saturday, the Sea Gulls played two solid halves of basketball and forced the opposition into 29 turnovers, but against Amherst, they will have to play a complete game from start to finish on both ends of the floor.
“I’d say we put two decent halves together, but in the next step playing against Amherst, we’re really going to have to play 40 minutes,” Sea Gulls’ head coach Kelly Lewandowski said.
On Saturday, the Jeffs (25-3) took down New York University by a score of 70-47. For Amherst, their leading scorer was sophomore Ali Doswell who scored 22 points and dimed out five assists in the victory.
Immediately after a win against Stockton on Saturday though, the Sea Gulls weren’t focused on Amherst right away, but Lewandowski assured that when the time came to do battle, the maroon and gold would be ready.
“Honestly I have not even seen them yet,” Lewandowksi said of Amherst after the Sea Gulls’ win over Stockton. “I know they crushed NYU tonight and that they’re really talented and come from a really strong conference, but we’ll be prepared.”
The Jeffs are a young team with just two seniors compared to the veteran squad of the Sea Gulls with six seniors. The Sea Gulls score more points but allow more points too, but they also turn the ball over less than the Jeffs with just 14.7 per game compared to the 16.2 times that the Jeffs cough up possession.
The rebounding numbers between the two teams are similar, but one area where the Jeff’s hold a distinct advantage is in blocked shots – averaging seven of them per game. That number is a direct reflection of the size advantage the Jeffs have as well, with five players on their roster who are over six feet tall, compared to just one for the Sea Gulls in freshman Joesphine Noonan who only plays about five minutes per game.
While the inches don’t match up well, the Sea Gulls have handled size this season. They were able to top a lengthy Mary Washington team for the CAC Championship and swept Christopher Newport this season that also sport six players over the six-foot mark.
The Sea Gulls held Stockton’s six-foot-two-inch freshman forward Sasha Williams to just four points. The night before, Williams – the New Jersey Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year – nearly recorded a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks.
The Sea Gulls’ secret against these towering players is simple: don’t be intimidated.
“We talk about playing against players like Sasha where, you either have to go at them, or go around them. There’s no going over them,” Lewandowski said. “When we start attacking we’re a much better team. We’ve played girls like Sasha this season, I mean, Christopher Newport has Camry Green who is just as tall and bigger. These girls have experience going against tougher, taller, bigger players.”
Against Stockton, Julia McLaughlin had 10 rebounds, while Lauren Rothfeld and Kathy Albornoz came off the bench and fought for a combined 14 rebounds. The trio of forwards will be needed again against Amherst as the battle will likely be won on the boards against their forwards – Meredith Doswell and Megan Robertson.
As per usual though, if the Sea Gulls plan on advancing to the Elite 8 round of the tournament they’ll need their A game from every player on the roster – most importantly from starting senior guards Anna Hackett and Sarah Seipp.
“That’s something that has been pretty consistent for us all year,” Lewandowski said. “Obviously Anna and Sarah have been our leading scorers so they are going to be the focus for other teams and defense is going to try and take them out, but the good thing is that we have Lauren, and Kathy, and Melanie Mocniak and Julia who have all stepped up at different times.”
The Sea Gulls will take the court on Friday at 5:00 p.m. against Amherst and the winner will face either Montclair State or Bowdoin for a trip to the Final Four in Grand Rapids, Michigan.