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Dartmouth women showing progress but still searching for victories

  • Dartmouth’s Olivia Lawlor (10) shoots the ball while being guarded by Albany’s Taniya Hanner (22) during a game at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Albany won, 73-45. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America photographs — Alex Driehaus

  • Dartmouth’s Clare Meyer (13) and Karina Mitchell (1) and Albany’s Lilly Phillips (3) and Helene Haegerstrand (21) jump for a rebound during a game at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Albany won, 73-45. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth Head Coach Adrienne Shibles yells from the sideline during a game against The State University of New York at Albany at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Albany won, 73-45. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

  • Dartmouth’s Victoria Page (15) looks for a pass during a game against The State University of New York at Albany at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Albany won, 73-45. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/8/2022 11:02:28 PM
Modified: 12/8/2022 11:02:36 PM

HANOVER — It’s hard to look at a 28-point margin in basketball and argue that the game was competitive, but the Dartmouth women, at least briefly, could make that claim against Albany on Tuesday.

The Big Green (1-7) were blown off the floor in the second quarter by the Great Danes, an NCAA Tournament participant last season, and trailed at the half by 19. They then scored the first 17 points of the third quarter and all of a sudden were within one possession. But just as quickly as Dartmouth’s run came, Albany punched back harder, outscoring the Big Green 33-7 the rest of the way for a 73-45 victory.

“I just said we weren’t playing with enough grit, enough fight (at halftime),” Dartmouth coach Adrienne Shibles said. “They came out in the third quarter and really showed what we can do — for about seven minutes. When teams go on a run, you have to have more leadership on the court in order to counter those runs. That’s something we need to work on.”

Eight games into Shibles’ second season on the Big Green bench, Dartmouth is 298th out of 350 Division I teams with 57 points per game. But that represents a drastic improvement from last winter, when they averaged a mere 47 per game and finished 3-23.

The season-opener against Bryant, in which Dartmouth led by 13 at halftime and lost, 70-63, proved to be a sign of things to come. On Nov. 13 against New Hampshire, the Big Green used a strong second quarter to take a two-point lead into the break, then extended that lead to eight in the third quarter. But Dartmouth failed to score for the final three and a half minutes as the Wildcats used late free throws to come away with a 59-56 win.

The Big Green also briefly led in the second half against Holy Cross on Nov. 27 before losing by 13, and four days after that, they led a strong Vermont team for nearly the entire second half until the Catamounts’ Catherine Gilwee hit a 3-pointer with one second left to hand Dartmouth a 67-66 loss.

“It’s really frustrating. It’s amazing to be in more games, closer games,” Shibles said. “But we do have learn, tactically, to have more awareness about how to put ourselves in situations to win games, and I hold myself accountable for that as the head coach of the program.”

Even in their lone win, a 68-65 victory over Merrimack on Nov. 16, the Big Green let a 14-point fourth-quarter lead slip away before a 3-pointer by junior guard Mia Curtis, who had 18 points that night, rescued them.

As she was last year, junior guard Mekkena Boyd is the only player who has started every game, though that streak might be in jeopardy after she was helped off the floor in the fourth quarter against Albany with an apparent shoulder injury. But a trio of underclassmen are currently leading Dartmouth in scoring.

Sophomore guard Victoria Page, who leads the way with 9.5 points per game, has been a bit boom-or-bust — eight points combined in three successive games against Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Merrimack, then 23 in the near-upset of Vermont.

“I’m being a little bit more aggressive on offense and making sure I’m more efficient in the shots I’m taking,” Page said. “Having upperclassmen who are teaching me how to be a leader, that’s been big too.”

Freshman forward Olivia Lawlor is just behind Page with 9.4 points per game, and sophomore forward Grace Niekelski, who missed the season-opener with an injury and has come off the bench in every game since, has come on strong of late with three straight games in double figures.

Niekelski gave the Big Green an immediate lift upon entering the game against Albany, with five points and three rebounds over the final six minutes of the first quarter.

“I focused a lot on having confidence in myself on offense and being a threat,” Niekelski said. “I’m looking to get open shots and be a spark off the bench. We were a little slow in the beginning, and we started to do a better job using our teammates’ strengths, whether that’s getting looks for open shooters or using our athleticism to drive.”

Picked to finish seventh in the Ivy League preseason poll, Dartmouth opens conference play on New Year’s Day at Cornell. Before that, though, the Big Green play five of their final six non-conference games on the road, including a two-game trip to Southern California and a Dec. 21 date with a ranked Iowa team. The matchup with the Hawkeyes was scheduled as a homecoming trip for senior forward Emma Koch, who grew up in Iowa City.

Shibles and Niekelski both cited help-side defense as an area where Dartmouth needs improvement before the start of Ivy League play, especially considering the Big Green will be smaller than most of their opponents in the post.

“One thing I appreciate about this team is we have three amazing captains and great senior leadership, and we need to regroup, because we have some really important games coming up and a big road trip,” Shibles said. “It’s going to be very important for us to find a way to stay together and rebound from this loss.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.


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