The past week has been monumental for the Swarthmore women’s basketball team, as the Garnet have clinched a playoff spot, held on to the top spot in the Centennial Conference, and honored Madeline Ross ’13 and Eliza Polli ’13 on Senior Day.
On Wednesday, the team locked in its first playoff berth since the 2004-2005 season with a 66-58 win over Washington College. Elle Larson ’15 led the team in scoring, matching her career-high with 23 points. The Garnet put up an impenetrable defensive front, limiting the Shorewomen to a mere 24 percent from the field and 14 percent from three-point range.
“To finally be able to have a commanding presence in our Conference is incredible,” Ross said. “Knowing that we have so much to fight for really helps us to stay focused and really appreciate every extra second of basketball we are granted.”
Despite the historic implications of this victory, Head Coach Renee DeVarney is not looking to dwell upon it. “Because we’ve been doing so well, and we’re not fighting for one of the fourth or fifth place spots in the Conference, we’re really hoping to finish [number] one,” she said.
“Making the playoffs was sort of expected, after a while,” DeVarney continued. “It’s exciting, and it is thrilling, but it’s not the ultimate goal.”
The following day, the first Mid-Atlantic NCAA rankings were released with Swarthmore coming in No. 4, one spot ahead of Gettysburg with whom the Garnet is tied for first place in the Centennial.
On Senior Day Saturday, despite an impressive career-high and game-high 34 points from the Franklin and Marshall’s Alexa Barbush, the Garnet pulled off a 74-58 victory over Franklin & Marshall. Larson once again finished as the team’s leading scorer with 20 points, while Katie Lytle ’14 piled up 16 points and 17 rebounds to post her 16th double-double of the season.
Ross and Polli both finished the afternoon with strong games; Ross tallied up 10 points, three assists, a block and a steal, while Polli totaled six points and four rebounds.
“Winning on Senior Day makes the day extra special and I’m so happy that both us and the men’s team could beat F&M on our Senior Day,” Polli said.
“The game against F&M was a really emotional one for me, not only because it was Senior Day, but also because the team feels this amazing responsibility for something so wonderful,” Ross said.
She continued, “We want to fight and win for everyone that believes in us.”
Although both seniors still have the rest of February to finish their final season, DeVarney has already begun to reflect upon the legacy they have left on the program during their Swarthmore careers.
“Off the court especially, they’re two great people, they’ve been hard workers since their freshman year, and they have great attitudes,” she said.
“As well as being great basketball players, they’ve made their impact as great Swarthmore student-athlete representatives.”
Looking back, DeVarney admits the highlights of this season have been the thrillers. “All of the close games have been really exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time,” DeVarney said. “We’ve made so many last-second shots at the ends of halves.”
Meanwhile, Ross and her teammates are focused on the upcoming weeks, and how they will achieve their ultimate goal of a Conference championship.
“We need to take it one game at a time,” Ross said. “We are all excited for what’s to come.
Polli is also experiencing the adrenaline of the upcoming weeks, saying, “If we stay number one in the Conference then we’re looking forward to hosting the playoffs and then winning at home.”
The Garnet will play its regular season home-finale this upcoming Wednesday against Bryn Mawr in the annual “Play 4Kay” initiative game to raise awareness for breast cancer. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.