BRIDGEWATER – Bridgewater College opens play in the ODAC women's basketball tournament Monday night when the Eagles host Roanoke College in first-round action. Tip-off at Nininger Hall is set for 7:00 p.m.
The teams split during the regular season with each winning on its home court. Back in November, the Eagles travelled to Salem and lost to Roanoke, 67-64. In the rematch at Nininger Hall, Bridgewater held off Roanoke, 67-58.
It's been an up-and-down season for the Maroons as they enter the tournament with a 7-18 overall record and a 4-12 record against conference foes. In the past week, the Maroons lost at last-place Hollins 64-56, but then took Randolph-Macon, the tournament's No. 2 seed, to the limit before falling 68-62 in the regular season finale.
Bridgewater first-year head coach Sarah Mathews expects a tough game with the Maroons. "It's going to be a competitive game. One thing she (Roanoke head coach Carla Flaherty) does is she gets her team to play hard. That's a scrappy, feisty group that's going to come in here. We'll have to be ready to play."
Sophomore guard Laura McManimen leads the Maroons in scoring with 10.0 points per game and she is also the team's top 3-point shooting threat. Kristina Harrel adds 8.5 points per game. Victoria Maxwell and Madeline Suhr combine to average 12 rebounds per outing.
After losing four straight games, the Eagles closed the regular season with three straight wins to earn a first-round home game in the tournament. Bridgewater is 12-12 overall and 8-8 in the conference.
"When we started the season, we talked about how we wanted to peak at the end of the season and be playing our best basketball," Eagles' first-year head coach Sarah Mathews said. "I think we're playing well. We needed to win those last three games to host a tournament game and we got it done."
Slow starts plagued the Eagles in several games this season, including giving up 34 points to Randolph-Macon in the first quarter. That was the fourth straight loss during the team's late-season losing streak and following that contest Mathews and her staff addressed the problem.
"We just talked to the team about defending in that first quarter," said Mathews. "Since that Macon game, we've done a better job of that."
Juniors Brianna Moore and Rebecca Harvey have carried the scoring load for the Eagles. Moore ranks fourth in the ODAC in scoring with a 16.1 average while Harvey adds 12.3 points per game.
The duo gets plenty of help most nights, starting with point guard Madison Baum who leads the ODAC in assists with a 5.6 average.
"When we play our best, we're balanced and we get contributions from a lot of different players. In the win over EMU we had six players score in double figures," Mathews said. "But, it's not just scoring. It's rebounding. It's playing defense. We're getting solid minutes from a lot of people."
"You're never quite sure how they're going to react," Mathews said. "We've had our team leaders talking to them about what the tournament is going to be line. It's exciting, everything gets amped up a little bit at this time of the year. You want your players to be excited about playing, but it's a fine line, you still need them to play our game."
The winner of Monday's game will advance to the quarterfinals at the Salem Civic Center and will meet Randolph-Macon, the No. 2 seed, on Thursday at 6:00 p.m.