ELIZABETHTOWN – Comfort produces cohesion. And cohesion leads to success.
But it all orginates from familiarity.
Right now, the members of the Lebanon Valley College women’s basketball team are getting to know each other, under fire.
On Tuesday night at Elizabethtown College’s Thompson Gymnasium, the Flying Dutchmen’s underlying unfamiliarity showed, during a 57-48 loss to the hometown Blue Jays. LVC fell behind the proverbial eight-ball early and although they never gave up, the Flying Dutchmen didn’t seriously threaten undefeated Elizabethtown the rest of the way.
With the setback, Lebanon Valley College slipped to 4-3 on the young year. The victory was Elizabethtown’s fifth straight to start the season.
“I think we’re getting better all the time,” said Lebanon Valley rookie head coach Diane Decker. “I see improvement every day. It’s hard with a new coach and eight freshmen. We’ve only had 26 practices. That’s not a lot. But I like the direction we’re headed.
“Luckily, I came into a great group of kids, who really want to learn, who really want to get better,” continued Decker. “That’s a big part of the battle when you’re taking over a team. I think that’s why we continued to improve. They’re tired of struggling.”
Certainly the contest’s outset had a profound effect on its outcome.
Lebanon Valley led once, 3-0 on a three-pointer from Northern Lebanon product Cassiah Ray, seconds into the contest. But the Blue Jays ran off the next eight points, and led 18-7 midway through the opening quarter.
By the middle of the second period, Elizabethtown had expanded its lead to 28-14. The Flying Dutchmen certainly didn’t help their cause by going without a score of any kind over the final 5:57 of the first half.
“I felt at the beginning the pace was too fast,” said Decker. “We were taking really good shots. It’s (the fast pace) just not what we do. We didn’t want to be in a track meet.
“We had a bad start,” added Decker. “Then you’re clawing back the whole game. It (the start) definitely had an impact for sure. They (her players) went down, but they never gave up. We seem to be having one bad quarter that hurts us.”
“I thought that was the best game I saw them play,” said Elizabethtown head coach Veronica Nolt, a graduate of Lebanon Catholic, of the Flying Dutchmen. “Give Lebanon Valley College a lot of credit. They played really well.”
Lebanon Valley’s scoring was led by Ray, Daelyn Stabler, Kennedy Kuffa and Cristina Fernandez, who combined to account for 41 of LVC’s total. Kuffa also pulled down ten rebounds, but the Flying Dutchmen made just three of their 18 three-point field goal attempts and shot a paltry 32 percent from the field.
Elizabethtown out rebounded Lebanon Valley 47-39.
“After the game, I just told them (her players) ‘great fight’,” said Decker. “We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. A couple of those go in and we’re in that game. That’s going to happen some days.
“I thought we were doing the right things,” Decker continued. “We were getting good looks and we were getting to the basket. It was there. You’ve just got to put them in. We’re a team of streaky shooters. We don’t have consistency.”
The Blue Jays used a 6-0 run early in the second half to stretch their lead to 16. Elizabethtown carried a 45-26 bulge into the final stanza.
But Lebanon Valley extended its defense and turned up the intensity, and the result was a late 14-5 burst. Thanks to a lay-in from Chardae Stone, the Flying Dutchmen pulled to within 51-40 of the Blue Jays, with 3:59 to go.
“Honestly, my expectations were to get better every day,” said Decker. “I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into. There were only seven girls on the team last year, and my goal was to come in and get them better by mid-season and the end of the season. We just want to play our best basketball. It’s hard to set goals when you don’t know what you’re coming into.”