The Lehigh women’s basketball team will return home Saturday afternoon after four away games to play the No. 1 team in the Patriot League, American University, in a pink-out game at Stabler Arena.
American enters the contest with a 19-4 overall record, including a 12-0 league record. The Eagles are on a 13-game winning streak and haven’t lost a game since before Christmas.
Lehigh is ranked fourth in the league with an overall record of 13-10 and a league record of 7-5.
This is the Mountain Hawks’ second time playing the Eagles this season. In their first meeting, American defeated Lehigh in an 82-64 win on Jan. 14 on the Eagles’ home court.
Sophomore forward Gena Grundhoffer said she doesn’t think the last matchup between the two teams was indicative of what Lehigh is capable of.
“We didn’t play our best game,” she said. “We came out flat, and they hit a lot of shots in their home building. I think that if we defend their tendencies, shut down their shooters and play team defense, we’ll have a good shot.”
Grundhoffer said she believes the Mountain Hawks are capable of beating any opponent when they’re playing at their best.
All five of the players in American’s starting lineup are upperclassmen, an important factor coach Sue Troyan attributes to the Eagles’ success so far this season.
“They have juniors and seniors that have been in the program for a while, so they execute both their offense and their defense really well,” Troyan said.
One of the most dynamic players in the Eagles’ starting lineup is junior forward Cecily Carl.
Carl is a weapon on both offense and defense. She ranks in the top 10 in the Patriot League in both rebounds and 3-pointers per game.
The Mountain Hawks had their hands full with Carl in the last matchup. The American forward led both teams in rebounds with 12 and scoring with 27 points, shooting 11-for-13 from the field, including 4-for-5 from the 3-point range.
“She’s a very versatile player,” Troyan said. “She can extend it with her great shooting touch and can play around the basket as well.”
The matchup will also be a clash of both teams’ star senior guards, American’s Emily Kinneston and Lehigh’s Quinci Mann.
Mann is the Mountain Hawks’ leading scorer this season with 14 points per contest and is ranked eighth in the Patriot League in scoring. Kinneston ranks fifth in the league in scoring and leads in field goal percentage, shooting 119-of-245 from the field.
Although Kinneston excels on the offensive end, Mann said she thinks the Mountain Hawks can use her to their advantage on the defensive end.
“We’re going to try and exploit her on the defensive end,” Mann said. “Whoever she guards, I’m confident that we can beat her.”
The Mountain Hawks only have six more games in their regular season — beginning with American — but each contest holds important implications for the Patriot League Tournament coming up in early March.
Mann said she believes the Mountain Hawks have the attributes of a team that can make a deep playoff run.
“In order to win a championship, you need to know you can be a champion, and I think we have that attitude,” she said. “We are so tenacious in believing in ourselves and believing that we can win every time we step onto the floor.”
Saturday’s game against American will decide whether the Mountain Hawks’ mindset prevails against the top team in the league.