Women’s Basketball Struggles In Early Going

Injuries are inevitable in sports, and the Raider women’s basketball team is used to the challenge that they present. Last year, the Raiders had their best season ever and won the Patriot League championship, despite losing both members of the starting backcourt – senior Allison Lipinski and first-year Molly Patterson – in the early going. This year, Lipinski and Patterson are back and playing well, but Colgate will have to contend without its biggest and most rugged presence on the front line, senior forward Milaina Lagzdins. Lagzdins’ season was off to an impressive start before being cut drastically short when she succumbed to an ACL injury during the first half of the Raiders’ first game of the year, on November 20 at St. Bonaventure. In just 16 minutes of action, Lagzdins had already collected 10 points and nine rebounds, showing why coaches and teammates have taken to affectionately calling the 6’1 forward a “beast” in the paint. Now, with surgery pending and Lagzdins likely out for the season, head coach Kristin Hughes has no choice but to look down the bench to find someone to fill Milaina’s large shoes. The senior forward led Colgate in rebounding in each of her first three seasons despite predominately coming off the bench. She earned all-tournament team honors for her play in last spring’s exciting postseason, and was expected to be one of Colgate’s top performers and leaders this season, having finally earned a permanent spot in the starting lineup. After hanging on to win that first game at St. Bonaventure, 73-70, the Raiders have struggled in Lagzdins’ absence, losing five consecutive games to fall to 1-5 on the young season. Deeper at guard than forward, Colgate has opted for a three-guard lineup and has been out-rebounded in each of its four defeats, by an overall margin of 184-147. Looking to replace Lagzdins’ size, Hughes has tried several options off the bench – among them sophomores Jess McQuoid and Carly Brescacin and junior Devon Warwick. None of the three has yet to emerge as Colgate’s primary option off the bench, and so Hughes has shown a willingness to use 6’1″ junior shooting guard Meghan Curtin in the post in a bid to get more offensive weapons onto the floor. The Raiders continue to search for the right formula to replace Lagzdins, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. None of the Raiders’ five losses were complete blowouts, and two of them came down to last-second shots. Even without Lagzdins, the Raiders could just as easily be 4-2 or 5-1, instead of a depressing 1-5. Colgate followed the win over St. Bonaventure by taking on St. John’s on November 21 in the championship game of the St. Bonaventure Shootout. Colgate jumped out to a 9-0 lead before St. John’s surged right back, and the game was tight at the half. Colgate held a brief lead in the second half, 41-40, but the Red Storm went on a 31-13 run to put the game out of reach, winning 78-59. On Thanksgiving eve, the Raiders traveled to Long Island to take on Hofstra in a game that was tight from start to finish. Colgate held the lead for most of the game, but Hofstra’s Vanessa Gidden kept things close by dominating in the paint with 19 points and 11 offensive rebounds. Colgate appeared to have the game won when first-year Melanie Cargle hit the biggest shot of her blossoming collegiate career, a clutch jumper off of a deadly spin move to put her team up by one with less than eight seconds left on the clock. But Hofstra drove the length of the floor and retook the lead on a game-winning shot with just 1.2 seconds left, sending Colgate off on the long bus ride home with a heart-wrenching 71-70 defeat. In its home opener on Saturday, Colgate again came up on the losing side of a tight game, falling 78-75 to Canisius. Then, the team dropped its fourth in a row, 76-66, Tuesday night at Long Island University. The Raiders blew an 11-point halftime lead to the Blackbirds, as they ran out of steam and were outscored 49-28 in the second half. The losses kept coming for the Raider women last night, as the team fell to the Vermont Catamounts, 80-63. The main culprit on this evening was turnovers, as the team’s total of 19 ultimately led to its downfall against the athletic UVM squad. But without Lagzdins, the Raiders were unable to match up well with the taller Catamounts, especially forward Lani Boardman, who scored 26 points. Four other Vermont players scored in double figures as the team snapped its three-game losing streak while sending Colgate to its fifth consecutive loss. Despite the disappointing record, there have been some bright spots for the Raiders. Lipinski is back on top of her game, pacing the Raiders with 16 points per game and leading Colgate with 15 three-pointers. Senior forward Emily Braseth, who scored her 1,000th career point in the home opener, has been solid as well, averaging 13.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and earning Patriot League Player of the Week honors. Patterson, whose status had been uncertain entering the season due to a host of injuries, has played remarkably in limited playing time at point guard and junior guard Megan Ballard has also shown flashes of brilliance, including a career-best 20-point game against Canisius. The team will look to finally return to the win column Sunday when it faces Wagner, with tip-off at 2 p.m.