Chicago (15–9, 9–4 UAA) will square off against Wash U (22–2, 12–1) in the final game of the regular season. While the Maroons, who split this past weekend’s games with a loss to Carnegie Mellon (12–12, 3–10) and a victory over Case Western (9–15, 3–10), won’t be able to surpass Wash U for first place in UAA play even with a win, they will view this Saturday’s tilt as a chance to hang one on their traditional nemesis.
No. 5 Wash U has had an extremely impressive season. The Bears are currently on a five-game winning streak and have won 17 of their past 18 games heading into Ratner. When both teams faced each other earlier this season in January, Washington sophomore Jordan Thompson dropped 27 points to lead her team to an 87–72 victory, while the Bears won the battle of the boards by securing 47 rebounds to Chicago’s 30. Several Chicago players believed that this last statistic played a decisive factor in the outcome of that game and will be an X factor in Saturday’s result.
“There will definitely be a big focus on defense and rebounding,” said second-year guard Paige Womack.
Head coach Carissa Sain Knoche believes that a lot has changed for both teams since they played previously in January, and that Chicago’s maturity down the stretch will make the game even more competitive than their first encounter.
“I think both teams are very different than when we played the first time. We are in a better place mentally since the first time we’ve played them and I think that’s a huge step. Our team has a lot to play for on Saturday and I think that makes a difference. From an X’s and O’s standpoint, I’m hoping we can be smarter handling their defensive pressure,” Sain Knoche said.
Fourth-year forward Maggie Ely shared much of her coach’s sentiment.
“The first time we played them, UAA play was just beginning. I think our girls are much more comfortable and confident, and that shows on both ends of the floor,” Ely said.
While Chicago has only an outside chance of being selected for the postseason NCAA DIII tournament in March, the team has greatly progressed this season, and not only in relation to its 7–18 overall record from last season, but also in terms of how it has played top-ranked competition. Chicago began its season with a number of tests against top 25 teams. In many cases, such as the games against Carthage, UW–Whitewater, and Wheaton, the South Siders played tough but could not pull out the victory. But as the season continued, the team has found the verve to defeat Emory and NYU, ranked No. 19 and No. 21 respectively at the time, by decent margins. If Chicago can play with the assuredness and skill that it is capable of, it should be an extremely fascinating matchup.
The game tips off in Ratner at 2 p.m. on Saturday.