The members of the Lehigh women’s basketball team learned a lot about their team while playing the beginning of their conference slate over winter break. After some strong play at times mixed with some inconsistencies, the team is becoming more aware of its strengths and weaknesses, and will use this information in future games.
Coach Sue Troyan and her team currently stand 6-3 in the Patriot League and 14-5 overall as it prepares to play the second half of its Patriot League schedule.
The team was 7-0 and rolling at the start of the break. However, the players were tested by some stronger competition. The team’s two non-conference losses were to Duquesne University and a powerhouse Arizona State University team, currently ranked 11th in the country.
Meanwhile, Lehigh’s 6-3 record puts the team at second in the Patriot League behind American University. The team has now faced each conference opponent once and will play a rematch against each team.
“The second half of the league is a great opportunity because you’ve seen everybody once,” Troyan said. “It becomes sort of a chess match in terms of they know what you want to do, you know what they want to do.”
The team remains in the hunt of the Patriot League, which has been competitive and unpredictable. Four of Lehigh’s last five games have all been decided by less than seven points.
The team has had some significant results, including beating last year’s Patriot League champion Army 63-51 and losing in overtime to first place American University. However, the team has had some letdown performances too, including a 64-52 loss to Loyola University (Maryland).
“What our team has learned through the first half (of Patriot League play) is that every game counts and there is no easy opponent on the schedule,” Troyan said. “You have to come ready to play every game. This is probably as talented of a team as I have ever coached. If our team is mentally and physically prepared, they’ll be successful.”
The depth has been a strength of the team. In the last six games, seven different players have scored in double figures. Troyan said she has the privilege to coach a team that is not just dependent on one player, since so many players can be a strong scoring option on any given day.
The top option this season so far has been sophomore forward Lexi Martins, who leads the team with 15.6 points per game and 11.4 rebounds per game.
“My teammates have done a great job finding me in open spots on the floor,” Martins said. “The team’s success as a whole can be attributed to the freedom within the offense. It allows all of us to make reads in the midst of the game, which really plays to our intelligence on the floor.”
Junior forward Kerry Kinek is another key player for the team that easily leads the Patriot League in scoring with 71.8 points scored per game.
“We have multiple players at multiple different positions that can score,” said Kinek, who is second on the team averaging 12.2 points per game. “With our offense, there’s a lot of different options. It’s hard to guard and put people where they are best at their strengths.”
Kinek also said the offense is very balanced. She, Martins and junior forward Elizabeth Sharlow are some of the players who can provide an offensive presence from inside, while senior guard/forward Katie O’Reilly can drive the ball.
“When we are clicking on all cylinders and everybody is on, we become a very tough team to guard,” Troyan said.