Not since the days of Heather Kile ’02 has Swarthmore College seen a woman dominate the basketball court like Karen Berk. The sophomore center has averaged 23.8 points in the team’s last four games and 22.1 over the last eight to increase her season average to 17.3 per game, second in the Centennial Conference. Berk’s 9.8 rebounds per game is also second overall, and her 1.15 blocks per game ranks sixth. The Garnet’s mediocre conference record will hurt her chances for the conference Player of the Year award, but first-team all-conference is a strong possibility.
On Saturday, Berk faces off with her main competition for the scoring title and all-conference honors, Gettysburg senior forward Jennifer Bengel, who leads the Centennial with 18.3 ppg. Bengel won the duo’s first matchup of the year on January 12th, scoring 23 points and leading her team to a 71-53 home win as Berk was held to 10 shots and 13 points. Lifetime, Bengel has outscored Berk in three of four head-to-head matchups.
The Garnet have lost four straight in the CC and are out of playoff contention, but have a good shot to salvage a decent overall record as the schedule eases up heading into the home stretch. Any hopes of a winning season rest on a win on Saturday. The Bullets are 11-4 in the CC, but are really in a group of about six CC teams who are not all that dissimilar from each other. Berk will need to come up big once again, and the Garnet will need to shoot something closer to the 44.6% they shot from the field last night than to their 37.1% season mark. Come down to Tarble Pavilion at 2:00 p.m. to check out the clash of the Centennial post Titans.
OK, the men’s basketball team lost by 53 on Wednesday. Yes, that’s a big number, and yes, it’s time to move on. Of more immediate importance are the Gettysburg Bullets, who come to town tomorrow for a 4:00 p.m. game. The Bullets are currently a shaky third place in the Centennial Conference. At 9-6, they need to keep winning to be avoid being caught from behind some or all of the several 8-7 and 7-8 teams. Gettysburg likes to take the air out of the ball; their 64.4 ppg allowed is tops in the conference, but their 44.0% field goal defense ranks just seventh. On offense, the Bullets rely on the outside shot–their 6.73 three-pointers made per game leads the league. Swarthmore led the league in three-point field goal defense as late as Wednesday afternoon but has lately had a tough time defending the trey.
On offense, Gettysburg is led by senior guards Mike Spadafora and Matt Whelan and sophomore forward Erik Fromm (no, not the psychologist), the team’s main offensive threat on the inside. None of the Bullets average more than 12.8 ppg. On January 12th in Gettysburg, Spadafora and Fromm combined for 37 points to lead the home team to a 76-56 victory.
Swarthmore would love to play spoiler and get a start on ending the season on a positive note. First and foremost, the Garnet will need to tighten up their defense, especially on the perimeter. Except for Fromm, none of the Bullets are likely to score big in the post, so there is no reason for outside shooters to be getting open looks. On offense, Swarthmore needs to be patient and avoiding forcing shots or passes.
It’s unlikely that either of the team’s high-scoring sophomore forwards, Ian McCormick and Steve Wolf, will be able to score more or less at will as they have in some games this season. “Patience” and “ball control” are the operative buzzwords for this game, though getting out a running a little to get the Bullets out of their game wouldn’t hurt either. Fast or slow, the action gets going at 4:00 p.m. in Tarble Pavilion.
Winter weather is scheduled to finally make an appearance this weekend, timing itself perfectly with the start of the spring tennis season. The Garnet will welcome Division I foe Colgate University (where, if the legends are true, it will snow at least three feet on Saturday) to the indoor courts at the Mullan Center at noon on Saturday.
In case you’re a freshman or have been living under a Strath Haven rock, here’s a news flash: our tennis teams are awfully good. Despite ending in a 4-1 loss for the Swarthmore men, last year’s Division III Regionals second round loss to Mary Washington was easily the best-played and most exciting sporting event on this campus in 2005.
This year’s team loses only Justin Durand ’05 to graduation and returns the formidable top two of Zach Rodd ’06 (ranked fourth in the region by the ITA) and Jon Reiss ’07 (ranked seventh). Freshmen JJ England and Kevin Shaughnessy achieved success in the fall season and should quickly become major contributors. Been slacking off on that New Year’s resolution to spend more time at the gym? Nothing beats Saturday morning for winning battles with yourself, and while you’re there, why not kill a second bird with that stone and see where that guy on your hall goes every day with that racket.