This season’s tri-campus face-off saw the Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross women’s basketball teams play head to head on Tuesday evening. A friendly match between the two schools (who normally play in different divisions and conferences), the game started last year in the 2021-2022 season to create a sense of community at home. This year’s game proved to be just that, with a crowd of family, friends, students and community members at the game.
The first half of the game was a great watch, with both teams keeping the other on their toes, especially in the first quarter. In the first half, the Saint Mary’s Belles struggled to keep up with the Holy Cross Saints, but they kept the point gap fairly controlled. By the end of the first 20 minutes, the score was 45-31, with Holy Cross in the lead.
The game took a turning point after halftime, however, as the Saints seemed to gain their footing on the offensive side and the Belles struggled with their defense and their shooting accuracy. By the end of the third quarter, Saint Mary’s was down 82-45 and it was not looking great for them toward the last ten minutes. Ultimately, the Holy Cross women’s offense was too strong for the Belles, who conceded the match in a final score of 106-57, making the game Holy Cross’ highest-scoring match of the season so far.
Postgame, both coaches were open to talking about their teams’ dynamics. Holy Cross head coach Tom Robbins was pleased with the outcome of the game, not only because of hia team’s high score, but because they successfully addressed what he considers the team’s weakness this season, their defense.
“We’ve been giving up too many points, we lost our last game 90-87, so we’ve been scoring a lot of points, but we’ve been giving up a lot of points,” Robbins said on the match. “We wanted to keep the opponent under 60, which was 15 points a quarter, and I thought we showed some improvement in that today that we need to continue moving forward.”
On the other hand, he recognized his players’ hard work and achievements on the offense.
“Our strength has been our guard play, we only had 11 turnovers today. We get big scoring out of our guards, like [sophomore guard] Jordyn Smith and [senior guard] Jayda Miller. Our guard play has been a huge strength for us all season.”
Saint Mary’s head coach Melissa Makielski was not as pleased with the outcome, but appreciated her team’s closeness as their greatest strength.
“I’d say our team camaraderie is probably our strongest point right now,” she said. “As far as what’s bettering right now, it’s hard to say anything after that game.”
As for what she tells her players in tough moments, she said she tries to remind them “just why they play, and the fact that basketball can teach them so many different things in life. There’s good times and bad times, and it’s how you respond to the bad times that will truly help you.”
Both teams seemed to be facing opposite years, with Saints made up of mainly underclassmen and Belles led by a great number of upperclassmen this season. Robbins says he is excited for what is coming for the program.
“The future is really, really bright, especially because there [are] a lot of teams that have fifth -ear players because of an extra COVID year that makes us particularly young compared to those teams. But as soon as those teams start cycling those out, we are gonna be the last old team left while all these other teams are rebuilding.”
Makielski is just as optimistic for the future and the impact that the upperclassmen are having on the younger players.
“I think [an older team] means good things for us, because our upperclassmen are committed to the program and committed to see it get better, and they’ve laid the foundation for that in the offseason stuff that the kids have done,” Makielski said. “They’ve created a great culture that the kids want to be a part of, and that’s something that’s going to last even after they graduate.”
As for the campus rivalry between both teams in this type of game, there seems to be a shared enjoyment of the challenge — as well as community — made by the game.
“Last year was the first year that we got this matchup going as a regular season matchup, and that’s what I envisioned was a tri-campus matchup,” Robbins. said “They’re playing up in Michigan, we’re playing in Illinois and we hadn’t played each other that much except for scrimmages. I think it’s great for the community for us to play each other, and also it’s a nice timing for us, for the end of the semester, since it’s a short road trip while getting ready for finals and all of that.”
Coach Makielski said her favorite part of playing Holy Cross is the familiarity.
“Even though it’s different divisions playing each other, it’s nice to have something other than conference play to look forward to and to challenge yourself with a rivalry like that,” she said.
In true tri-campus fashion, the night ended with both teams circling up and holding hands in prayer on the court after the final buzzer.