ANNVILLE – If indeed it does take a village to raise a child, then Todd Goclowski takes his role as an extended patriarch very seriously. Last night, the girls and kids Goclowski took into his women’s basketball fold four years ago were turned out to the real world as women and young ladies.
But during their maturation process in Annville, my how the Flying Dutchmen grew, prospered and learned.
On Saturday night at the LVC Gymnasium, the most successful class in Lebanon Valley College women’s basketball history – and perhaps one of the most prolific in the annals of Flying Dutchmen athletics – saw its four-year run come to an end, in the form of a season-ending loss to unbeaten Montclair State, in the second round of the NCAA Division Three tournament. Using its athleticism, size and speed, Montclair established a working margin midway through the first half and didn’t leave off the pressure until the Flying Dutchmen were forced to submit late in the second 20 minutes of action.
During their careers at LVC, the eight women who comprised the class of 2013 won 102 games, lost 16 – a winning percentage of .864- garnered three Commonwealth Conference Championships and qualified for four NCAA tournaments. Pretty heady stuff. The Flying Dutchmen, who had beaten Baruch 59-53 on Friday, concluded this season 24-5.
Montclair State’s win, its 29th straight, moved it into next weekend’s Sweet 16.
“Our team, very much was a family,” said Goclowski. “That was the difference. We were able to piece things together on the court due to our togetherness and our bond. That will always be our reason for success.
“I think it fits more of an academic analogy,” Goclowski continued. “Our seniors have graduated from the basketball program tonight. They leave a legacy for our school and in the community. They walked off the court heads held high, as they should have. I’m proud of my team, in victory or defeat.”
Saturday’s outcome was decided in the first half, after LVC’s Kiely Chaklos nailed a jumper to the tie the score at four two minutes in. Montclair’s subsequent 10-2 spurt gave it a 14-6 lead, and proved to be a precursor of things to come.
The Flying Dutchmen were still hanging around, down 18-11 thanks to a charity toss from Liz Borgia, before the Red Hawks hit them with a 22-8 run to end the half. Trailing 40-19 at halftime, Lebanon Valley may not have been out of it, but the Flying Dutchmen were teetering on the brink of elimination.
“There was plenty of fight in our team,” said Goclowski. “Montclair is a threat to go to the Final Four. We didn’t have to play the perfect game. We played rattled too long. There’s game nerves and performance nerves. And we had performance nerves. We were uncomfortable for a long stretch of the game, and it hurt our chances to win.
“We came out of the locker room ready to go toe-to-toe,” Goclowski continued. “Give Mountclair State credit for a great performance.”
Chaklos and Kaitlin Bach paced the Flying Dutchmen attack with ten points apiece, while LVC’s top player, Tierney Hiltz was limited to 19 minutes of action and eight points by an apparent ankle injury. Lebanon Valley was out-rebounded by the quick Red Hawks 41-31, and turned the ball over 25 times.
Lebanon Valley was limited to 38 percent shooting from the field and connected on just one three-point field goal attempt.
“We knew that going in,” said Goclowski of the Red Hawks’ athleticism. “We didn’t do a good job of keeping them off the O-boards. We have not seen a team as active on the glass.
“There are always things in games we don’t do well,” added Goclowski. “Today, we focused on things we didn’t do well, and didn’t look to the next play.”
Though they never quit, the Flying Dutchmen never seriously mounted a threat in the second half.
The closest Lebanon Valley could come was 45-30 on a three-pointer by Kerri Stolle, five minutes into the second half. But over the next four minutes, Montclair State overwhelmed the Flying Dutchmen with a 17-2 run that made it a 62-32 game. Yikes!
“We fought until the end,” said Goclowski. “We didn’t settle, but we fought. I’m quite proud of them.
“We were capable of winning this game,” continued Goclowski. “We needed to play more cautiously. Montclair State is one of two undefeated teams in the country, and that’s the team they put together this year. I think we’re still right there. Our draw was difficult. But this was an awesome experience.
“It was an emotional locker room (after the game). It was the closing of eight careers. It was enjoying and revisiting their accomplishments.”
It seemed like a long time had passed since Lebanon Valley won its third straight Commonwealth Conference championship, last weekend on the road.
“It was an outstanding year,” said Goclowski. “To get to the championship game on the road through Widener, said a lot about the character of this team. Three championships is a very difficult achievement to accomplish. I like where we are, and I like where we’re headed.”