The last time the Goshen College women’s basketball team had a winning record in a season, the team went on a run to the 2016 NAIA national semifinals.This year, the Maple Leafs are striving to end the six-year losing streak — and it’s beginning to look like a real possibility.
With the Leafs holding a 5-2 record before Wednesday night’s matchup at the University of St. Francis, Goshen has come out of the gate hot and ready to “turn some heads,” as junior Zion Neat put it.
“We have a really good culture going right now,” Neat said, “and everybody just wants to win at any cost.”
The Leafs started their season 3-0 before falling to Holy Cross College, 84-48, in a game that head coach Stephanie Miller described as “terrible.” Goshen bounced back, however, winning their next two games against Judson University and Huntington University by a drastic margin.
In their 80-56 victory over Judson, the Leafs set a season best of 54 rebounds helped by Zoe Zellers’ 10. In just 13 minutes of play, Zellers achieved a double-double with 10 points to match her rebounds.
One week later, the Leafs traveled to Huntington University for their first conference game, where their 72-42 win was their largest margin of victory in a conference road game since 2002 at Grace.
Neat, who had 18 points at the half — just one less than Huntington’s entire team — said that “each game, we’ve been trying to put together a full game of doing all the little things right … this feels like the first game that we really did it all four quarters.”
Neat finished with 18 points and three steals against Huntington, while Syanne Mohamed grabbed 13 rebounds to complement her six points.
Goshen dropped their next game, 74-57, to Grace College, who is receiving votes in the national poll. Even that loss, though, wasn’t without its bright spots. Sophia Eli came off the bench to score 14 points along with four steals.
The Maple Leafs were hurt by their two top scorers, Neat and Sa’Drea Rougeau, combining to shoot just 6-16 from the field. Starter Kyla Foster managed five rebounds and 10 points, but even though Goshen managed to out-rebound Grace, 35-34, their 21 turnovers proved too costly to overcome.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Miller said, “and it’s because we were making bad decisions.”
“We were playing super hard,” she continued, “but they were making us pay for our effort; we were playing hard but not smart. … I think the ceiling is pretty high for us as far as our growth opportunity, but we have to look at situations like this and games like this and learn quickly.”
After last night’s matchup at St. Francis, Goshen now travels to Spring Arbor University on Saturday before their next home game, a 1 p.m. matchup against Mount Vernon Nazarene University on Dec. 10.
“I think everybody’s just really excited at the idea of turning some heads,” Neat said. “[We’re] getting some more of those notable wins, so people will go, ‘woah, what’s Goshen doing this year?’ So that’ll be fun. I’m excited.”