Emma Esteb – Staff Writer
Women’s Basketball Article: Regular Season Title after Win Against Saint Catherine’s
This past Saturday, Feb. 11, the Gustie women’s basketball team faced Saint Catherine’s at Gus Young Court. The Gusties needed one win to clinch at least a portion of the conference regular season title. With that in mind, Saint Kate’s came out hot at the beginning of the first quarter where they held the Gusties to just two points. “Our mindset going into the game was that Saint Kate’s is a good basketball team, they are coached really well, and they always play super hard so we knew it wasn’t just going to be a pushover game. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy win so we just needed to go out there and play Gustie basketball,” Junior Emma Kneifel said.
Channeling the heart of Gustie basketball, Kneifel reset the tone and scored six points to tie up the game 12-12. Slowly gaining speed, the Gusties took a two-point lead but were tied up again towards the end of the first quarter. Sophomore Kylie Baranick posted two free throws before the end of the first, solidifying an 18-16 lead.
Both teams put up 10 points each in the second quarter ending the half with a Gustie lead of 28-26. “I would say the biggest thing was our defense, we held them to a very low-scoring game because our offense wasn’t clicking well, our defense kept us ahead,” Baranick said. The team knew what they had to do in the second half and were determined to clinch that Conference regular season title. The Gusties faced adversity in this game as they didn’t have head coach Laurie Kelly on the sidelines. Earlier this season, against Saint Kate’s, Coach Kelly tallied her 400th collegiate coaching win with the team and has continued to be a dominating force over her nine seasons of coaching at Gustavus. Her absence was a contributing factor to the uncharacteristically slow start for the team. “It didn’t go as we had hoped in the beginning, definitely was a struggle getting a few buckets, getting some easy ones but throughout the game we just kept focusing on ourselves, focusing on our defense, and bringing the energy. After halftime, we started to pick things up and went on a little run,” Baranick said.
The Gusties found their rhythm and increased their lead with each minute of the quarter. Senior Anna Sanders made both three-pointers, tallying six points in the third quarter. Baranick, Sophomore Rachel Kawiecki, and Sophomore Morgan Kelly each posted five points in the third creating a 13-point margin at the end of the quarter.
With this momentum, the Gusties continued to stay up and finished with a winning score of 69-55. “After the game, I was still surprised to see the score. They only scored 55 points, which is right around our average but it just didn’t really feel like that during the game. But, I think that we all stayed really positive which I was proud of,” Kneifel said. This game was their 21st win of the season, successfully clinching at least a share of the Conference regular season title. Kneifel led the Gusties with 13 points, along with Sanders who was right behind with 12 points, and Baranick with 10. Kawiecki led both teams with 10 rebounds and Baranick posted a game-high of five steals.
The team is now 18-2 in conference play and has two more games to take the full conference title, starting with their matchup against Hamline this Wednesday.
The Gusties have been tremendously successful this season. “Our team chemistry has been a major component to our success this season. We all know what our role is and what we have to do in order to be successful. None of us overstep that or under step that so we are always being aware,” Kawiecki said. The team is looking to end the regular season with those two wins in order to fully claim that Conference title and then head into the postseason on the right foot. “We’re just really hoping to finish out the season strong with those two wins and then get that title to ourselves and then the postseason is always so fun and exciting. We also could possibly have a chance at hosting if we make it that far which would be super cool and something to look forward to,” Kneifel said.
With this momentum, the Gusties are ready to finish off their season strong and reclaim their title. The team’s drive, passion, and heart will carry them far, as it already has been all season long. The Gusties have a bright future ahead and are ready for whatever is thrown their way. They head to St. Paul this Wednesday to bring them one step closer to becoming MIAC regular season champions.