BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – There are two possible explanations about what’s going on within the Lebanon Valley College women’s basketball program right now. Either the Flying Dutchmen have responded very quickly to new head coach Amy Sokaitis or LVC is riding the residual success of its past regime.
If truth is what one seeks, it’s probably a combination of both.
On Wednesday evening inside Lou Sorrentino Gymnasium, Lebanon Valley won its third straight game to open the 2014-15 campaign, wearing down Misericordia 73-63 in its home opener. After trailing 36-31 at intermission, LVC outscored the Cougars 42-27 over the next 20 minutes of action.
The Flying Dutchmen are now 3-0 under Sokaitis, who took over for the dismissed Todd Goclowski, the most successful coach in the program’s history. The loss dropped Misericordia to 0-2 in the early going.
“It’s all them,” said Sokaitis of her new charges. “We have a tremendous amount of talent. If you put them in the right positions, they’re going to succeed. The past – right, wrong or indifferent – it doesn’t matter. The talent is there.
“So far, the science is working,” Sokaitis added. “Sure you always want to better tomorrow than you were today.”
Following an uneven first-half performance, the Flying Dutchmen made a number of second-half runs at the Cougars. It was the final one which stuck.
Nursing a 47-46 edge midway through the stanza, Lebanon Valley rattled off ten straight points, to open a 57-46 bulge with 9:33 to go. Bridget Rothert collected six LVC points during the crucial burst, while teammates Cara Breslin and Lauren Derby each contributed a basket.
Misericordia subsequently pulled to with five points of LVC’s lead twice, at 57-52 and 61-56. But the Flying Dutchmen tallied 12 of the contest’s final 19 points.
“The game is all about runs,” said Sokaitis. “It’s about understanding runs. We didn’t do a good job in the first half of stopping runs. But we didn’t let it get away from us. In the second half, the bench did a great job. They were hugely significant in the runs.
“The shooters were catching the ball in front of us on the bench, and we were telling them not to shoot,” Sokaitis continued. “They (the shots) just weren’t dropping. We were trying to get the ball in the post, and to the basket off the bounce.”
Freshman Kaitlyn Van Tash pumped in 14 points to tie Rothert for LVC’s team-high scoring honors, while Lexie Lantz complemented the duo with a dozen on six-for-11 shooting from the floor. Peyton Carper’s ten caroms helped Lebanon Valley out rebound the Cougars by a 48-34 count.
Lebanon Valley caused 25 Misericordia turnovers to help offset its one-for-13 shooting performance from three-point land. The Flying Dutchmen did connect on 47 percent of its attempts from the floor in the second half.
“She’s a little bit of instant offense,” said Sokaitis of Van Tash. “She’s also got a great feel for the game. She’s a freshman, and learning how to play the college game.
“It was Lexie’s first game,” Sokaitis added, “and it made a tremendous difference. She gives us another option. She’s just got to get her legs back.”
After the two sides evenly divided the game’s first 20 points, Misericordia hit Lebanon Valley with an 8-1 burst over the next 2:39 to open an 18-11 advantage.
“I thought we started out really slow,” said Sokaitis. “I thought our legs were a little dead. But offense came with our defense.
“In the second half we got into passing lanes a lot more and made them more uncomfortable,” Sokaitis continued. “And with that offensively, we were much more patient. We did a much better job.”
Lebanon Valley still trailed, 41-35, three minutes into the second half. But the Flying Dutchmen parlayed two baskets from Lantz and one apiece from Van Tash and Carper into an 8-2 run that knotted the game at 43,with 14:13 showing on the second-half clock.
“We were one-for-13 from the three-point line, which is not where we want to be,” said Sokaitis. “”We’re kind of a by-committee offense. We’re going to go with the first good look from the right player in the right position.
“With our injuries, we’re playing a three- or four-guard system with four guards,” added Sokaitis. “We’re putting people in uncomfortable positions because of our numbers.”
Hajec 2-7 0-0 4, Seely 6-12 1-2 13, S. Baro 3-10 1-2 8, Smicherko 1-7 2-3 4, N. Baro 3-4 1-2 7, Williams 2-5 2-5 7, Eberly 0-1 0-1 0, Schmale 0-0 0-0 0, Brochetti 7-10 2-2 18, Plitt 1-3 0-0 2.
Totals — 25-59 9-17 63
Cirucci 1-6 2-2 4, Rothert 5-15 3-4 14, Van Tash 6-8 2-2 14, Umbrell 2-12 2-2 6, Derby 4-11 1-2 9, Breslin 1-1 0-0 2, Carper 2-10 4-6 8, Kelly 2-3 0-0 4, Lantz 6-11 0-2 12.
Totals — 29-77 14-20 73.
Halftime score — Misericordia 36, Lebanon Valley 31
3-point goals — Misericordia 4-12 (Brochetti 2-3, S. Baro 1-4, Williams 1-1, Hajec 0-3, Smicherko 0-1). LVC 1-13 (Rothert 1-6, Umbrell 0-4, Carper 0-2, Cirucci 0-1)
Rebounds — Misericordia 34 (N. Baro 6), Lebanon Valley 48 (Carper 10).
Assists — Misericordia 12 (Williams 4), LVC 20 (Rothert 5)
Total fouls — Misericordia 19, Lebanon Valley 15
Fouled out — None