by PETE JANNY, Asst. Sports Editor
It’s no secret that the Manhattan women’s basketball team (3-12, MAAC 1-3) has endured a tough season thus far after compiling a modest 13-18 record last season.
With the MAAC season still young and a long-awaited home stand set to begin, Friday night’s match-up with the win starved Iona Gaels (1-16, MAAC 0-6) had the look of a prime opportunity for the Jaspers to turn the page on their early season struggles.
It was a remarkable response in the midst of trying times for the Jaspers. Heather Vulin’s team showed up with a chip on their shoulders in what was a 55-33 shellacking administered by the Jaspers. The Manhattan onslaught extended their winning streak vs. Iona to four games and now own a 49-31 advantage in the all-time head-to-head series.
It looked as if the Gaels weren’t going to go down without a fight after jumping out to a 10-7 lead before the first media timeout. Things however went all downhill from there for Iona. The Jaspers quickly responded by spearheading a 10-1 run to finish the first quarter with a 17-11 cushion.
Freshman Kania Pollock served as one of the main catalysts in helping Manhattan secure a lead that would never be relinquished. With nine of her 13 points coming in the first quarter, Pollock was Manhattan’s energizer.
“I promised my team before the game that I would be more defensively sound,” said Pollock. “Once I focused on that and on making my teammates successful then that’s how I scored the way I did.”
“When she plays the way she wants to play it’s really fun to watch her,” added Vulin.
The second quarter did little to help either team as the Jaspers outscored the Gaels by a meager count of 8-2. The main highlight came in the final seconds when Manhattan freshman D’Yona Davis penetrated the Iona defense for a pretty finish in the lane. The Jaspers entered the halftime break with a comfortable 25-13 advantage.
The narrative from the first twenty minutes of action carried over to the second half in what was an overall dominant night for the Jaspers. Pollock and Davis continued to wreak havoc late in the game as they combined for 11 points in the closing quarter.
Manhattan frustrated the Iona offense all night holding them to a 21.6% clip from the field while also forcing 18 miscues for the visiting team. In a season that has been characterized by nifty defensive play, Vulin lauded her team’s effort on the defensive end.
“When we communicate and we rotate and we play with the intensity necessary to be successful I think we are a really good defensive team,” said Vulin. “All of our hard work has really paid off and to hold any team to 33 points is outstanding.”
Davis and Pollock led the way in scoring with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Conversely, the rebounding category was headlined by sophomore Courtney Warley’s career night on the boards. Worley pulled down 14 rebounds to help lead her team to a 42-34 advantage on the boards. Vulin’s biggest takeaway from the battle on the boards was the ability of her guards to corral rebounds.
“Our bigs have done a really good job rebounding throughout the year but what really stood out is how our guards stepped up,” said Vulin.
Warley attributed her team’s rebounding prowess to a heavy focus on grabbing boards in practice.
“A lot of practices have focused on rebounding and I know if we rebound like we did tonight we will just keep earning more possessions,” said Warley.
Despite the volatile course the season has taken up to this point, Vulin is proud of the way her players work every day to better themselves.
“I’m really proud of the team because we’ve had some adversity this year and every time something happens they just keep fighting and clawing and trying to get better” said Vulin.
“I was just proud of each and every one of them tonight.”
If Friday night’s demolition of Iona kickstarts a special stretch, she’ll be even more proud.