ANNVILLE – We’ve seen that togetherness, leadership and chemistry can affect a basketball team’s performance on the hardwoods. But can on-court happenings shake the foundation of ‘the family’?
The Lebanon Valley College women’s basketball team had the fabric of its family tested this week. But when push came to shove, it was the strength resulting from unity that pulled the Flying Dutchmen through.
On Saturday afternoon at the LVC Gymnasium, it was the Flying Dutchmen’s commitment to each other that propelled them to a 69-62 victory over Widener. Feeding off one another, Lebanon Valley cranked up the intensity in the second half, especially on the defensive end, and outscored The Pride 30-21.
LVC, which was coming off its first loss of the season, an emotional 62-56 setback to Messiah, jumped up to 5-1 on the season and 4-1 in the Commonwealth Conference. Widener dropped to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the league.
“I think it’s a challenge all the time to keep a happy family and to keep healthy relationships,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Todd Goclowski. “We work hard at that, keeping respectful relationships. I thought our daily use of family concepts pulled us through today and led to a positive result.
“There’s many things we do to build the family concept,” Goclowski continued. “We have daily arm-in-arm exercises in practice, and we have many team events. All those activities help bring us together. And when we get on the court we’re able to rely on those relationships.”
Lebanon Valley trailed by as much as 55-47 with 9:42 left and 58-52 with 7:46 left. But it was about that time that the Flying Dutchmen applied more pressure to the ball in the form of traps and double teams, and LVC ended the game on a 17-4 run.
Included in that run was a 7-0 burst that gave Lebanon Valley a 59-58 edge, with 3:52 to go, on a Lauren Ruhl jumper. A lay-in from Kiely Chaklos, two free throws from Taylor Umbrell and a charity toss from Renee Fritz fueled the LVC fire.
“At halftime, we really had a reality check about, not only who we are, but where we want to be,” said Goclowski. “In the second half, we played with more heart and pride. Against a really talented Widener team you’re not going to get what you want, so you’ve got to find what you need. I really thought the second-half defense was the key.
“Late in the game we wanted to deny some of the shooters without help,” added Goclowski. “The game plan was to not allow them to shoot. We went to our full-court press just to mix it up and change the pace of the game. We wanted to throw the early punch.”
Senior guard Tierney Hiltz upped her level of play and paced the Flying Dutchmen with 23 points, on eight of 15 shooting, and nine rebounds. Fritz collected 13 points, while Chaklos contributed ten.
Lebanon Valley held Widener to 20 percent shooting in the second half, while The Pride converted only 11 of their 21 foul shots. The Flying Dutchmen out rebounded Widener 51-37.
“I think in conference play you have to have a forgetful memory, and move on,” said Goclowski. “We had to put the Messiah game behind us. It was a good win. It was an important win. For us, it was an important win in our sense of team.
Lebanon Valley trailed by as much as 36-24 with 5:53 remaining in the first half. But the Flying Dutchmen closed the first half on a 15-5 spurt to close to within 41-39 at the break.
“Tierney helped us hang in there in the first half with some good three-point shooting,” said Goclowski. “She’s a gamer. She’s a leader. She helped us keep our composure.
“What a week,” Goclowski added. “We played two really championship-caliber games. Today was a little more fun than Wednesday. Against Messiah, we fell a little short.”
Four minutes into the second half, Chaklos pulled the Flying Dutchmen to within 46-45. But The Pride responded with seven straight points over the next five minutes to push its advantage back to eight.
“We had 14 turnovers in the first half,” said Goclowski, “and limited them to eight in the second half, in a highly-paced, physical game. We let number 11 (Jennifer Egee) get off early, and when you let good players get off early, it’s going to be a long night.”
“Widener played very well,” said Goclowski of The Pride’s 50 percent first-half shooting. “They came out ready to take the game from us. We did not respond well, and did not adjust for five, six, seven minutes into the game. But we were able to steady the ship, and got it down to two at halftime, which was really important.”