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Muhlenberg College

Thursday, February 25, 2010

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Championship Preview
womEN’S BASKETBALL plays the “name game”

You can divide most of the members of the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team into two categories. Not by position or class year, but by name.

Of the 14 players on the active roster, all but four have first names that start with “K” or “Al.” The Mules not only share common names, but also
Kaitlyn O'Malley
O’Malley and her fellow seniors are 65-14 against CC opponents the last four years.
uncommon basketball ability, which will be on display at Memorial Hall this weekend when they shoot for their third consecutive Centennial Conference championship.

Muhlenberg, ranked 22nd in Division III, will play the first
Mules Jump to Second in Region

Following a week in which four of the six previously ranked teams lost, Muhlenberg moved up to No. 2 in the NCAA regional rankings released yesterday.

With just a few days to go until selections to the NCAA Tournament are announced, the new ranking bodes well for the Mules’ chances to earn an at-large bid should they fail to win the Centennial Conference playoffs, or to get a high seed if they do.

The rankings are as follows, with regional and overall record in parentheses:

1. Moravian (23-2/23-2)
2. MUHLENBERG (20-4/20-4)
3. Lebanon Valley (22-2/22-3)
4. Messiah (19-3/21-4)
5. Scranton (19-4/21-4)
6. McDaniel (18-6/18-6)

semifinal game against fifth-seeded Dickinson, a 64-44 winner over Johns Hopkins in last night’s first-round game, on Saturday at 2:00. That will be followed by the second semi, between Gettysburg and McDaniel, with the championship game slated for Sunday at 2:00.

The Mules are the first team to host the final four in back-to-back years since the CC went to one division in 2004. They won the title on their home floor last year and at Franklin & Marshall in 2008.

“It’s really exciting to be at home,” said senior Kaitlyn O’Malley. “You have your fans there, you get to sleep in your own bed instead of in a hotel room. You get to have your normal routine.”

In addition to being a comfortable spot for the Mules, the Memorial Hall floor is also where mixups occur on occasion in practice because of the similarity in names. On one side you have O’Malley, Katy Rossino, Kathleen Naddaff and Kate Clawson, not to mention Kimberly Mui and Kelly McKeon (not to be confused with Julie Kelly).

On the other side, there’s Alexis Bates, Alexandra Berlin, Alexandra Chili and Alita Zabrecky.

Even the team’s three non-playing seniors, Katie Ferris, Alyssa Scaglione and Katelyn Tolan, fit neatly into the two categories.

“We’ve always made a joke about it,” said O’Malley. “Sometimes Coach will say ‘Kaitlyn’ and four people will turn around. Just the other day, he said ‘Alex, do this,’ and they didn’t know who he meant.”

For the record, the “Al” players have outscored the “K” players, 748-698, but Team “K” leads in rebounds, 428-358, and assists, 174-135.

Add it all up, and it spells another successful season for the Mules, who enter the tournament with a great deal of confidence after closing out the regular season with an 80-46 thumping of Ursinus. The big win came on the heels of a four-game stretch in which Muhlenberg struggled to beat non-playoff qualifiers Franklin & Marshall (by six) and Haverford (by two in overtime) and lost at home to Gettysburg by 22.

“I think that win at Ursinus really pumped us up,” commented O’Malley. “We weren’t ourselves for a couple of weeks, and now we feel like we’re back on track. We bring that spirit to practice, and we’re all having fun.”

The fun will continue if the Mules can beat Dickinson, which went through its own rough stretch recently. The Red Devils (17-8) lost four of seven from late January to mid February, including a 77-41 setbback to Muhlenberg, and in one of the wins defeated 0-20 Bryn Mawr by only six points. But they regrouped to beat Franklin & Marshall in the final game of the regular season, then handed Johns Hopkins its worst home CC playoff loss ever.

This is the third time in the last four years Dickinson and Muhlenberg have met in the playoffs.

“They’ve always been a good team, and they’re a big rival of ours,” said O’Malley. “The last game we played extremely well. It will be hard to repeat that effort.”

If the Mules can repeat the effort, they will be one win away from repeating as conference champs.

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