After their best start in nearly two decades, the John Carroll University women’s basketball team has gone through a rollercoaster of a season. The Blue Streaks currently are tied for sixth in the Ohio Athletic Conference at 5-5 and own an overall record of 10-7.
Perhaps the greatest up of the season came when the Blue Streaks defeated the No. 7 ranked team in the country, the University of Mount Union, on the road in Alliance, Ohio.
That victory marked the first time in program history that JCU defeated a team ranked in the top 10 on the road.
Despite that remarkable achievement, the Blue Streaks would have a difficult time handling some of the tougher opponents on the schedule.
The first five losses of the season came against teams with a combined record of 63-15, including an 85-47 defeat at the hands of DePauw University, the No. 12 team in the country at the time, in Greencastle, Ind. over Christmas break.
The DePauw loss triggered a four-game losing streak, including losses to Baldwin-Wallace College, Muskingum University and Wilmington College. B-W sits atop the OAC, and Muskingum is currently tied for fourth.
However, since the Muskingum loss, coach Kristie Maravalli’s squad has had a reverse of fate, currently riding a three-game winning streak with wins over Marietta College, Heidelberg University and Capital University, who is tied for fourth in the conference.
In those three wins, the Blue Streaks are averaging 83.6 points per game, riding the solid play of freshmen Allie Lustig and Missy Spahar.
Lustig got the call to start in the Marietta game and responded with 12 points and six assists, and then came up big for her team this past Saturday against Capital with a career high 15 points and five assists.
“I was definitely nervous to start for the Marietta game, but once I got all the nerves out, everything just seemed to fall into place,” said Lustig. “I know that one of my strengths as a point guard is to run and push in transition, and that’s simply what I’ve been doing.”
Spahar, who averages nearly 12 points per game and has logged four double-doubles on the year, has been a big contributor to the recent success.
Over the past three games she’s averaging 14.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
“Before every game I just think about all the things that I have to do to help contribute to the team,” said Spahar. “I have a lot to learn but I know that I am with a great group of girls and coaches that will make me play to the best of my ability.”
Of course, the spectacular play of senior guard/forward Lee Jennings and junior transfer Emilee Ritchie shouldn’t be ignored.
Aside from the Capital game, either Jennings or Ritchie has led the team in scoring in every game this season.
The duo also ranks first and second in scoring in the OAC with averages of 22.8 and 17.8 points per game, respectively.
In the win over Heidelberg, Ritchie posted a career high 27 points, and leads the OAC in three-pointers made per game with 53 made three-balls on the season.
As the Blue Streaks head into another tough stretch in the schedule with Mount Union, B-W, and Ohio Northern University around the corner, the Blue Streaks are looking like they are ready to respond to the challenge.
Next up for JCU is Saturday’s showdown in Ada, Ohio with ONU, slated for 2 p.m.