Despite 5-22 record, Navy manages to stay optimistic

Late surge gives Mids hope in tournament vs. Bucknell

Patriot women

March 03, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The Navy women's basketball team, accustomed to lofty heights under coach Joe Sanchez, learned how the other half lives this season. Now, there is one final opportunity to rejoin the Patriot League elite.

Into the conference tournament head the Midshipmen with an uncommon 5-22 record, including a 3-9 showing in league play that makes them the seventh (and bottom) seed. But there is hope:

Navy has flashed signs of waking up, winning three of its past five league games and receiving increasing offensive output from sophomore Hilary Goodrich, who scored 50 points on a two-game road trip that finished the league season and was the Patriot Player of the Week.

Patriot preseason Player of the Year and top scorer Erica Hayes (17.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg) is returning after a knee injury and should be ready after a four-day break. She had 19 points and 12 rebounds at Army on Saturday.

The Midshipmen are separated for the early rounds from their perennial nemesis, Holy Cross, a team they would not have to meet until the championship game.

Those three factors provide fodder for the optimism of Sanchez, who believes "every other team is beatable. This thing is up for grabs and if we play the way we have been lately, we have a great opportunity. Holy Cross being in the opposite bracket is OK with us. That makes it really interesting."

For Navy -- first in defense and last in offense -- to make waves, its perimeter shooters must be effective to relieve some of the pressure on Hayes inside. The defense has often prevented the team from being blown out, only to have the offense falter.

Up first today is second-seeded Bucknell, an opponent which barely beat Navy twice, 64-58 and 46-43, and one which faded from a 7-0 start to finish 8-4 in the league. If they win, the Midshipmen advance against the winner of No. 3 Colgate vs. No. 6 Army.

"The key is to try to stay healthy," Sanchez said. "I'd have to say Erica was about 80 percent and by the time we play, she should be rested. She was favoring the knee a little bit, but she scored 19 at Army. We've just got to get some balance and score from the perimeter."

Sanchez will start a small lineup of Hayes, Goodrich, Holly Fryburger, Marisa Ball and Jennifer Bombinski and rotate post players to find a hot hand. Navy has struggled to score without the injured Mandy Stephan.

Patriot women

When: Today-tomorrow; final at site of higher seed Wednesday.

Where: Allan P. Kirby Sports Center, Easton, Pa.

TV: None unless Navy wins opener, then Comcast tomorrow

Radio: WNAV (1430 AM)

Defending champion: Holy Cross

Favorite: Holy Cross. The Crusaders earned the top seed for the seventh time in league history and lost once in Patriot play to gain the first-round bye.

Dark horse: Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks rallied to finish tied for third with Colgate and are playing in their back yard.

MVP candidate: Anna Kinne, Holy Cross. The senior guard is the catalyst for the best team in the league and ranked second in assists and steals.

-- Kent Baker

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