February 18, 2013

Women's basketball aims for another berth in Centennial semifinals

HAVERFORD, Pa. – The Haverford College women's basketball team will make its second consecutive appearance in the Centennial Conference playoffs beginning Wednesday night. The fifth-seeded Fords head to Baltimore, Md., to take on the fourth-seeded Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays at Goldfarb Gymnasium in first-round action tipping off at 7:30 p.m.

Participating in the first-round contest for the second straight year, the Fords (15-9, 12-8 CC) look to draw off experiences gained in last year's initial foray into the conference playoffs where Haverford advanced to the semifinals. The Fords enter the postseason as winners in four of their last six outings including an inspiring performance in the regular-season finale when Haverford clipped rival Swarthmore College, 45-41, in a defensive battle on Senior Day at Gooding Arena. Sophomore guard Elizabeth Lynch provided the go-ahead bucket in dramatic fashion as her three-pointer off an inbounds play at the 33-second mark found the bottom of the net to break a 41-41 tie. Looking to take momentum from the hard-fought victory, the Fords face Johns Hopkins with a trip to the Centennial's Final Four on the line.

The Blue Jays (15-10, 13-7), owners of four Centennial titles, head to the conference tournament having won nine of their last 11 contests.

The season series saw each squad claim a win on its home floor as Haverford shut down visiting Johns Hopkins in the second half of a 58-39 victory on Nov. 20 in the conference opener for both clubs. The Blue Jays turned the tables on Jan. 12 as they held off a late Fords' rally to escape with a 52-46 victory.

Two of the top three defensive squads in the conference will do battle at Goldfarb as the Fords' trademark defense, limiting opponents to just 50.4 points per game, will aim to shut down Alex Vassila. The senior forward has tallied 14 double-doubles this season and leads the team in points (13.4 per game), rebounds (10.8 pg) and blocks (2.8 pg). Vassila's supporting cast includes the guard tandem of sophomore Stacey Fairey (9.6 points per game) and freshman Liz Tommasi (9.1 ppg). Johns Hopkins ranks second in the conference in offensive rebounding (16.3 pg) so look for Haverford's defense, ranked second in the Centennial and 32nd in all of Division III, to limit the Blue Jays' second chance opportunities.

On the other end of the floor, the Fords will look to take advantage of a balanced attack that features six players that average at least five points a game. Co-captain Dominique Meeks, a member of Haverford's 1,000-point club, leads the way with 9.5 points per game this season and has accumulated 19 double-doubles in her career. The senior forward is vital to the Fords in many ways as she tops the team in rebounds (7.7 pg) and stands second in the conference in steals with 2.5 per contest. Meeks has led the team in scoring in 10 contests this year but many others on Haverford's deep roster have stepped up over the course of the campaign.

Lynch (8.4 ppg) is a formidable threat from long distance with a team-leading 43 three-pointers, and junior Rachel Baskin (8.2 ppg) has eight double-figure performances on the year.  Averaging 8 points and 3.6 assists per game, point guard Jacquelyne Pizzuto efficiently controls the Fords' offense that turns it over a mere 14.3 times per game on average which stands 15th in the nation. The sophomore ranks eighth in all of D-III with a sterling 2.16 assist-turnover ratio. Junior Nina Voith (7.3 ppg) and senior Victoria Sobocinski (5.5 ppg) add even more options on offense as the duo ranks in the top four in program history in three-pointers made. Voith recently became the fifth Haverford women's player to hit the 1,000 point mark while Sobocinski consistently fills the stat-sheet columns. Senior Calla Miller (4.6 ppg), a four-year starter, has nine assists in her last four games.

Providing an additional boost from the bench, besides Lynch and Voith, is center Shannon Smith. The sophomore has come on strong throughout the season to become a consistent performer in a reserve role.

The winner of Wednesday's game will punch a ticket to the conference semifinals to square off against  top-seed Gettysburg College at 6 p.m. Friday night on the Bullets' home floor. The other semifinal will feature second-seeded Swarthmore against defending champion, and third seed, Muhlenberg College at 8 p.m.

Tickets for the game are $5 for adult and $3 for youth (ages 13-18). There is no charge for children 12 and under or students from participating schools with ID.

Video streaming and live stats will be available. Stay on top of all the Centennial Conference tournament happenings here.