Championship Preview: Deja Vu for Women's Basketball?

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - page 2

Stop if you’ve heard this before: The Muhlenberg women’s basketball team starts the season with a long winning streak before hitting some bumps when the calendar turns to January. The Mules then get things back together in time to close out the regular season with another winning streak before heading to Baltimore for the Centennial Conference playoffs.

That was the story last season when Muhlenberg started 8-0, lost five times in January and then won the final six regular-season games before capturing the conference crown at Johns Hopkins, avenging two regular-season losses to the Blue Jays.

Katy Rossino
Rossino leads Mule regulars with a 1.83 assist-to-turnover ratio this season.

It’s also the same start of the tale this season as the Mules won their first 12 games before dropping five of their next eight, including two to Hopkins. They’ve recovered to win five in a row.

They hope to keep the similarities going when they head to Hopkins tomorrow for a semifinal showdown with second-seeded Franklin & Marshall. The host Blue Jays play Haverford in the first semifinal, with the winners meeting in the championship game at on Saturday for the conference’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth.

But while the two seasons seem to be carbon copies, there will be two noticeable differences for the Mules.

Last year, seniors Kimberly Mui and Kathleen Naddaff were forced to watch the playoffs because of injuries. This year, they will get a chance to help the Mules go after their seventh conference title and fourth in the last five years.

“Last year, it was one of the best times of my life,” Naddaff, who was injured in last year’s regular-season finale, said. “But at the same time it was so frustrating, because all I wanted to do was be out their helping my teammates and playing the game I love.”

Muhlenberg enters the tournament on the longest winning streak of any playoff team, but the Diplomats have been hot as well, winning nine of their last 11 games, with both losses coming to Johns Hopkins.

Kimberly Mui
Mui averages a steal every 9.8 minutes, tops amongst Mule regulars.

The two teams split their regular-season matchups, with each winning on the other’s court. Four of Muhlenberg’s losses have come against the remaining playoff teams, but according to Mui, that just serves as added motivation.

“They are all really great teams,” Mui said. “We know we’re going to have to play really well this weekend. We’ve been playing better as a team the past few games. There’s no better feeling than making an opponent’s fans go silent.”

Not only would two wins help the Mules exact some revenge, but they would also move the Class of 2012 into a tie for the most wins in school history. The class of Mui, Naddaff, Alexandra Chili and Katy Rossino currently sits in third place with 90 career wins, one behind last year’s class and two shy of the Class of 2009’s record.

But Naddaff said the only thing that matters to her and her classmates is winning their third conference crown in four seasons and making sure their season goes on at least one more game.

“We definitely don’t want to have to sit around wondering whether or not we’re going to get in the NCAA Tournament,” she said. “We want to win the championship so we know we’re in; it’s way too early for our careers to be over.

“We all wanted to be a part of a winning program – that’s part of the reason why we all came to Muhlenberg. We really want another championship, and I definitely think we can do it.”
Click here for a video preview, courtesy Service Electric TV2.
Click here for the championship site.