For the past two years, the women’s basketball team made it to the NCAA Division III championship game. The fact that both appearances resulted in losses should not overshadow the magnitude of what the team has accomplished: to be one of two teams standing after 424 others have fallen is itself a historic achievement.
“It’s so hard to get to where we’ve been the last few years,” said Head Coach Adrienne Shibles. “And so while I’m disappointed we fell short, I’m just incredibly proud [of the team] and what we’ve accomplished.”
Less than a month into a new season, the team has continued its streak of excellence, surging to a record of 6-0 after taking down Bates 59-42 last night in Lewiston. The team has done so despite the losses of four senior players, including Abby Kelly ’19, who became the 15th player in Bowdoin women’s basketball history to score over 1,000 points—making her one of the highest-performing players the program has ever seen—and Taylor Choate ’19, an All-NESCAC defensive player.
In their absence, previous role players and even first years have stepped up. Sela Kay ’22 and Moira Train ’21 have been consistent performers this season and have seen their scoring tallies increase from 5.7 to 10.8 points per game and 3.7 to 12.0 points per game, respectively. Encouragingly, first-year guards Ali Meade ’23 and Megan Tan ’23 have also provided valuable minutes off the bench right away.
Co-captain Samantha Roy ’20, was especially impressed by the first-year players.
“Our five first years are absolutely amazing. They’re great basketball players. And there hasn’t been one time this year where, as a senior captain, I’ve second-guessed their commitment to the program … They’re so special,” she said.
Despite surging to a number of lopsided early-season victories, including an 83-47 win over University of Southern Maine and 80-35 trouncing of Colby-Sawyer, both Shibles and Roy are aware that the team’s play is far from perfect.
Shibles, in particular, pointed to the first half against last Saturday’s 66-40 win over Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1-6), in which Bowdoin struggled and trailed by 11 points. The team finished the half down 21-25, shooting just 31 percent from the field. Bowdoin bounced back to outscore MIT in the second half, 45-15. The comfortable final scoreline is deceptive, for the win was not easy.
“[A game] may look like a blowout, [but] when we go back and review the film, there are generally a lot of things that we need to improve on,” said Roy. “So the scores right now aren’t that important to us.”
Both Shibles and Roy are committed to constant improvement. According to Roy, this sort of commitment is central to the team culture, which has also made it easier for the first-year players to become integrated into the atmosphere.
“Since the standards have already been set, it’s the first years’ job to come in and maintain them,” Roy explained. “[Our culture] revolves around our high standards, and the way we conduct ourselves as Bowdoin students and athletes. That’s everything from when you run a sprint you touch the line to if you have to miss a practice for something school related, you communicate with Coach as soon as possible.”
In Shibles’ view, this is also important to a young team that has to figure out its identity on the fly while under pressure to perform.
“I love the fact that the team motto for this year is ‘Love the Fight.’ I really think it speaks to the fact that we did lose a big core of our team and we have a young group … there are going to be those moments of adversity. And in those moments, you’ve got to love those challenges and have a positive attitude about rising,” Shibles said.
Thus far, the team seems to be doing just fine.
“Everyone around here has certain expectations about what these women should be doing,” continued Shibles. “And that kind of pressure can be tough to deal with at times. We have to just stay focused on the process and stay together. And if we do those things, we’ll be good.”
The team will continue its pre-NESCAC matches this Saturday at home against Colby at 3 p.m.