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The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

Women’s basketball falls short despite late comeback

A Utica player absorbing pressure during a game against Houghton University.
Kayleigh Sturtevant
A Utica player absorbing pressure during a game against Houghton University.

Vanessa Hall’s career-high 26 points and a game-leading six steals from Mackenzie Simmons weren’t enough at home as Utica fell 78-70 to Union College on Nov. 13 and 0-3 in non-conference play to start the 2023-2024 campaign.  

It was a defensive struggle at first, with neither team scoring a basket in the opening two minutes. Graduate student Julia Rotando kicked off the scoring from the field; her jumper put the Pioneers up 4-0 with 7:46 left in the first.

After the first period, Utica (0-3, 0-0 Empire 8) trailed 18-14. Newcomers Hayleigh Lagase, a transfer from Georgian Court University, and Hall, a first-year from Whitesville Central High School, led the scoring for Utica after 10 minutes with four points each.

In the second quarter, Union (1-2, 0-0 Liberty League) continued to steadily build their lead. Jelena Perovic led the way for the Garnet Chargers by scoring eight points and dominating the low post.

By halftime, Utica trailed 33-27 but Hall continued to keep the team in the game, converting all of her attempts from the field as well as a few attempts from the line.

Despite the Freshman standout performance the game started to get away from Utica when Union outscored them by 10. The biggest downfall for the Pioneers was the first possession of the quarter when the Garnet Chargers had a pair of offensive rebounds to set up an open jumper. The away side had more possession of the ball with 17 offensive rounds compared to nine from the Pioneers. 

Heading into the fourth quarter, Utica trailed by 16, which quickly turned into a 23-point deficit after Union went on a 7-0 run to start the quarter. However, when all hope seemed lost, Utica found their will to fight.

Guard Kieara Kirvan was subbed in near the start of the fourth and immediately woke up the Pioneers. Two steals and a forced turnover led to five points for the Pioneers as they got rolling with 6:18 left in the game. Hall in under two minutes scored seven points — she capped off her scoring run with a three-pointer — as the clock ticked down to 3:28.

With Utica still trailing by double-digits and with under four minutes left, they went with a small-ball lineup — focused on forcing turnovers. With Rotando and Senior Hope Halvarson checking in alongside fellow guard Haley Burchardt. Utica was able to force several consecutive turnovers and turn them into eight points in less than a minute. 

The Pioneers down by five with 1:43 left to go were still in it, however their hopes were short-lived as Union quickly cleaned up the turnovers and put the game to bed with a few more buckets. The fourth quarter truly showcased our ability to come together and work as a team when we needed it most,” Hall said. “We never gave up on each other and because of that, we were able to cut a 20-point lead into only a few points. We need to work on continually keeping that intensity, and now that we know what we are capable of, we can only go up from here.”

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About the Contributor
Kayleigh Sturtevant, Multimedia Editor
Class Year: Senior Major: Sports Management Previous Position: Multimedia Editor (Fall 2023)

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