The Oswego State women’s basketball team’s season came to a close on Tuesday after a 53-40 loss to SUNY Oneonta in the SUNYAC quarterfinals.
Over the weekend the Lakers ended the regular season with a 72-66 win over SUNY Fredonia on Senior Day and a 71-61 loss to Buffalo State.
Tuesday night the Lakers visited Oneonta for the SUNYAC women’s quarterfinal tipoff. The season series between Oswego and Oneonta was split, with both teams winning at home. The Lakers got off to a slow start which they struggled to recover from.
“Oneonta came out with a big run and that’s what really hurt us,” senior forward Kayla Ryan said. Oswego would score only five of the game’s first 19 points.
“Tuesday was very disappointing,” Bruno said. “[Oneonta] did a great job of changing defenses and it really seemed to confuse us.”
Though her squad fell short, 53-40, Bruno was proud her squad never quit playing.
“We were a couple of made shots or one less turnover away from cutting the lead to single digits,” Bruno said.
On Friday, February 17, the Buffalo State Bengals came to Max Ziel Gymnasium for a “Play 4Kay” event against the Lakers. The event was put on by the Oswego State Athletics Department in conjunction with the national Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
The contest saw the Lakers get on the board first with a 3-pointer from Ryan and the game continued to be a back-and-forth game with the Lakers keeping pace with the top seeded Bengals.
“I really thought we battled tough,” head coach Tracy Bruno said.
The Lakers would struggle offensively toward the end of the half with the Bengals pulling ahead by 10 at the end of the first half.
“When you play the top team in the conference you really can’t afford to do that,” Bruno said.
The second half began with the Bengals, going up by 17, resulting in a 46-29 score. After a few adjustments, the Lakers slowly chipped away at the lead, eventually trailing by only six points. A 3-2 zone defensive switch and concentrating on shutting down the top shooters of Buffalo State helped the Lakers come back.
“Our concern with going zone is rebounding, particularly against Buffalo State, who averages over 16 offensive rebounds game. We did a great job of limiting them to one shot” Bruno said.
In the offensive end the Lakers became much more aggressive, forcing 12 Bengal fouls, and getting to the free throw line. The Lakers hit 12 field goals in the second half, improving from seven in the first and added another three 3-pointers to their total in the second half. The top-seeded Bengals, proved to be too much for the Lakers. Buffalo State would hang on to its lead and defeated the Lakers, 71-61.
The following night the Lakers would be in action again against Fredonia, in a Senior Night contest.
“It was a very emotional start,” Ryan said. “They went over the top.”
Fellow senior Jenna Rossi agreed.
“The team did a lot for Kayla and I. they made life-size posters of us in action and hung them up for everyone to see,” Rossi said. “It was a touching surprise.”
The team also made commemorative T-shirts for the seniors along with the coaches’ gift of a framed home jersey for each of the seniors, which they both acknowledged as something special they can share with their families.
“It’s wild to think four years have already passed,” Rossi said.
These emotions carried the Lakers to an impressive start, storming out of the gate and not looking back. After a Megan Stover layup late in the first half, the Lakers were up by as much as 17, finishing the half up by 11.
“A lot of the players wanted to play for the seniors,” Ryan said.
The second half would not come without any pushback from Fredonia. Twice the Blue Devils came within six points of Oswego State, but the Lakers held on for a 72-66 win. The win clinched the sixth playoff seed and a matchup with Oneonta in the playoffs. Bruno acknowledged her seniors will be missed.
“Kayla has been a fixture in our line-up for all four years of her career,” Bruno said. “She leaves our team with career numbers in scoring, steals and rebounds.”
Rossi also played her last game in a Laker uniform.
“Jenna’s fierce, competitive spirit will be greatly missed. She hates to lose and brought that attitude to every practice and game,” Bruno said.
Though a disappointing ending to the season, another one on the horizon shows much promise, according to Bruno.
“We return a strong nucleus of players led by Meagan Stover and Lauren Nunziato,” Bruno said.
Nunziato was named Athlete of the Week for her 17-point performance against Fredonia, including going 5-for-6 from 3-point range.
Along with Stover and Nunziato, several key players down the stretch such as Kassie Kleine, Kari Kipper, and Paula Egelston will return. Oswego State also will be looking to four freshmen from this season to step up and fill big shoes left by the seniors leaving.
“We’re going to be a good team next year, we have guards that can shoot and drive and post players that can shoot too,” freshman guard Emily Birchall said. “We’re already excited for next season.”