Oxbow’s Hodge Has Lyndon Abuzz

  • Mikayla Hodge makes a move on the blocks for the Lyndon State College women's basketball team against Colby-Sawyer College on Dec. 9.

  • Mikayla Hodge makes a move on the blocks for the Lyndon State College women's basketball team against Colby-Sawyer College on Dec. 9.

  • Mikayla Hodge makes a move on the blocks for the Lyndon State College women's basketball team against Colby-Sawyer College on Dec. 9.

Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, January 28, 2018

Lyndonville, Vt. — It took Mikayla Hodge a while to fully realize her potential on the basketball court. Now that she has, the rest of the North Atlantic Conference is on notice.

Hodge, a 6-foot-1 Oxbow High graduate and Lyndon State College senior center, has developed into one of the NAC’s best overall players.

The Newbury, Vt., native leads the conference in a bevy of important statistical categories: points per game (20.4), total rebounds (266) and rebounds per game (14.8), 3-point field goal percentage (42.5), free throws made and percentage (86 of 100; 86.0) and blocks (34) as well as minutes (36.3 per game).

Having secured her 1,000th career collegiate point during the second game of the season against Vermont Tech, Hodge went on to notch her 1,000th rebound earlier this month against Johnson State. She was named NCAA Division III national player of the week last Tuesday after averaging 31.1 points and 19 rebounds in two games, including a career-high 40 points and 27 rebounds while playing all 50 minutes of an overtime win over Husson on Jan. 20. 

Underscoring the development of her outside shooting, Hodge sank a 3 to snap a tie with 1:51 left in OT against Husson, then sank four free throws in the final 15 seconds to ice the victory.

After eight straight losing seasons, the Hornets (11-7; 7-4 NAC) — with Hodge’s help — are in solid contention for a berth in the conference tourney under second-year coach Sean Lynch.

“She’s very skilled and athletic for her size,” said Lynch following a recent Lyndon practice. “For someone who’s 6-1, she really knows how to move when she’s around the basket, and she shoots well from mid-range and from beyond the 3-point line.”

That wasn’t always the case for Hodge, who was pegged almost exclusively as a post player prior to last year, both with the Olympians and under former Hornets coach Vinny Maloney. She went a combined 0-for-6 from 3-point range as a freshman and sophomore at Lyndon, attempting a shot from downtown just twice during her sophomore season. 

Lynch, a former Middlebury women’s hoops assistant, saw the potential for Hodge to contribute away from the blocks and worked to enhance her mid-range and outside game. Striving to emulate the form and release of transfer shooting guard Gabrielle Foy (17.0 ppg), Hodge showcased her newfound range while shooting 46.6 percent from the field (143-of-307) and 47.2 percent from 3-point territory (17-of-36) as a junior.

Foy, who transferred prior to last season from Central Maine Community College, is the team’s second-leading scorer but has been sidelined since early December with Achilles’ tendon and ankle injuries. She remains day-to-day.

Hodge has stepped up on the perimeter in her absence, sinking more 3s this year (37) than she attempted last season.

“I’d say, definitely, the outside shooting has been the biggest part (of my development),” said Hodge, a sports management major who intends to enlist in the U.S. Air Force after graduating. “I owe a lot to Sean and to my teammates for seeing that in me and encouraging me to work on that.

“(Maloney) was a good coach, too, but when Sean came in and Gabrielle transferred in, there was kind of a change where we all realized that if we worked hard, we could turn this program around.”

Hodge struggled at times to assert herself fully while averaging 12.9 ppg during a three-year varsity career at Oxbow. She helped the Olympians win the Vermont Division III championship as a sophomore, but coach and physical education teacher Brian Musty was subsequently fired amid allegations of sexual assault of a minor. (Musty later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison.)

Including Musty, Hodge had three coaches in three years during her high school career, scoring 16.4 points per game and helping the O’s reach the semifinals as a senior under current fifth-year Oxbow coach Barry Emerson.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Hodge of the coaching changes. “We got back to Barre, but I think I still had a lot of maturing to do as a player and a person at the time. I’ve definitely come out of my shell a lot since then.”

Emerson has organized trips to Lyndon to watch Hodge and the Hornets play numerous times over the last several years.

“I’m overjoyed at what she’s accomplished there, I really am,” Emerson said. “She’s obviously come into her own a lot. I expected her to have a solid college career, but I didn’t know she would do this well.”

Neither did Hodge, who was amazed — and nervous — to find herself on the cusp of 1,000 career points heading into the Vermont Tech game on Nov. 21.

Needing 20 to reach the milestone, Hodge had garnered just six in the contest with 6:33 to play before exploding for 15 of the Hornets’ final 20 points, reaching 1,000 on a layup with under a minute remaining.

“It meant a lot for me to get it that night. My mom (Jackie) lives in Maine and drove four hours to see it. My brother (Michael) is studying abroad in Russia and was watching it online. I really wanted to come through.”

Hodge has come through at both ends of the floor, including defensively, helping Lyndon allow just 57.8 ppg (fourth in the NAC) while leading the conference in blocks.

“Her defense is another area where she’s really improved,” said point guard Victoria Carlson, a junior and Hornets tri-captain with Hodge and Foy. “She’s always there on the help side and is vocal when she needs to be.”

Lyndon State entered the weekend fourth among NAC’s 10 teams, and Lynch estimates the Hornets will need four or five wins over their last eight games to reach the tourney. Prospects appear promising, and Hodge hopes the Hornets are set up for success beyond this season.

Lyndon State and Johnson State are merging to become Northern Vermont University beginning in the fall, but the campuses will maintain separate athletic departments. The Hornets will keep their nickname and be known as NVU-Lyndon, according to Lyndon State athletic director Dave Pasiak.

“I’m really grateful for what this program has allowed me to do, so I think the biggest goal for me is to help them not only this year, but to build for future years,” said Hodge, who also received class credit as an assistant coach for the Lyndon State women’s soccer team this fall. “You can feel the change around here, where people are going to start seeing Lyndon and start thinking, 'Oh yeah, that’s a good team.’ I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.