Women’s Basketball clinches tournament birth

Ben Webster

The women’s basketball team had a marvelous reading period, improving their record to 13-8 by defeating two conference rivals in Ripon and Beloit. With the wins, the Vikings clinched the fourth seed in the MWC tournament.
The conference tournament will be hosted by Lake Forest, whose only loss was at the hands of Lawrence. The girls completed a sweep of Ripon for the first time in seven years.
The wins add to head coach Amy Proctor’s record as the winningest coach in this school’s history, which include an impressive 12 playoff appearances in 19 seasons.
Excitement was in the air at Alexander Gymnasium on Wednesday as Lawrence jumped out to an early lead against the 8-13 Red Hawks, converting on 11 of 30 without any three balls or free throws.
The Vikings were firing on all cylinders with stellar play coming from guards Carrie Van Groll and Chelsie Barnard, as well as forwards Christine Brice and Kelly Mulcahy.
Lawrence was ahead by 13 points with six minutes left in the half (22-9) but watched their lead dwindle to only three at halftime after a Ripon steal and three-pointer.
Fans were in disbelief at how quickly the lead had vanished by halftime, but the girls came out eager to restore faith in the second half as Barnard quickly added a three ball to the lead.
Tension remained high, however, as the Red Hawks closed the gap to four several times with good jumpers, and made consecutive lay-ups in 45 seconds to narrow the lead to three.
The bleacher floors were sprinkled with finger nails with fans knowing that a steal and a three would tie the game, but junior Van Groll put it on ice sinking two free throws with time running out to make a 54-49 finish.
Van Groll was the high scorer with 18 points, six of which were free throws in the second half.
Barnard made significant contributions with 11 points and Mulcahy snatched 11 boards. The victory against rivals Ripon built momentum for the lady Vikings, which they would need on the road against Beloit on Saturday.
Despite the positive momentum of the last game, the girls came out a little sluggish in the opening minutes against Beloit (11-11) as they quickly succumbed to a 5-0 deficit.
It took the Vikes six minutes to shake off the grogginess of the bus ride, and from the 14-minute mark to halftime they began to dominate, unleashing an eight-minute (23-2) run.
The second half’s play was conducted by Lawrence but in a less dominant fashion, and the Vikings accumulated a final score of 71-55.
Jen Gabriele had a tremendous game with 19 points and Kelly Mulcahy finished with 18 points. Jenny Stoner remained solid at point guard with 10 assists and nine points.
Other standouts were Erin Henzi, Barnard, and Molly Bouressa.
Jenny Stoner commented, “We were very happy with our first half performance – we shot the ball well, played good team defense, transitioned (which we haven’t done very effectively in a while) and made a 23-2 run during an eight-minute period which is always lots of fun.”
The point guard continued, “And the second half, although not as pretty as the first – we did what needed to get done to hold on and we played smart in the last couple of minutes. Hopefully Saturday’s game will give us the confidence we need for the next two games.”
Wednesday evening the Lawrence girls dropped a tight game to St. Norbert by two points, 70-68. Lawrence was up by as much as 13 in the second half but a strong Green Knight run down the stretch put an end to any third place aspirations Lawrence had. The Vikings conclude their conference season Saturday against second place Carroll and will face host Lake Forest in the first round of the conference tournament.