While most students were away for winter break, the Maroons remained on the court, taking on a strong slate of opponents throughout December and early January. Overall, the Maroons found some success over the holidays, posting a record of 3–1 in four consecutive road games. With these results, the squad improved to 8–3 this season.
First, the team traveled to Seattle to compete in the Pacific Northwest Tournament at Pacific Lutheran University. On December 18, the Maroons took on the Lutes and defeated the tournament hosts by a score of 74–57. The second quarter proved to be the difference in the game as Chicago posted an impressive 22 points while holding their opponents to just eight in the period. First-year guard Katrina Williams exploded off the bench, scoring a team-high 14 points and draining four consecutive three-point jumpers. Her teammate, first-year forward Olariche Obi, recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The next day, the squad faced off against the Loggers from Puget Sound. The game was a shootout and remained close throughout. In fact, there were a staggering 16 lead changes over the course of the game as the teams traded scoring-runs, but in the end, the Maroons prevailed and defeated UPS by the slim margin of 88–85. Second-year guard Elizabeth Nye scored a game-high 21 points, while third-year forward Britta Nordstrom added 19 of her own to go along with eight rebounds. Nordstrom and Obi were subsequently named to the all-tournament team for the PNW competition.
After the New Year, Chicago returned to action against Loras College on January 2. Although expectations were high, the Duhawks spoiled the Maroons’ trip to Iowa. The game was close early, but the Loras squad pulled away in the fourth quarter to secure a 79–68 victory. For Chicago, Nordstrom posted 16 points and 10 rebounds while fourth-year guard Caitlin Moore added 10 points of her own. Yet, these individual efforts were not enough to overcome the balanced offensive attack of the Duhawks.
Finally, last Monday, the Maroons made the short trip downtown to face the Illinois Institute of Technology. In an impressive defensive showing, the Maroons dominated the Scarlet Hawks by a tally of 69–28. Remarkably, this is the lowest point total allowed by a Chicago team since 1992. In total, the Maroons forced 31 turnovers including 17 steals, which marks a new season-high for the squad.
This rounded out the team’s non-conference schedule for the season. The Maroons will begin UAA play this Saturday when they travel to St. Louis to take on Washington University in St. Louis. The Bears enter the game with a record of 9–2 and are currently ranked No. 11 in the USA Today poll. However, the team recently fell out of the top 10 following a loss at Loras College. Still, the Bears will pose a tall order for the 8–3 Maroons who come in ranked outside of the top 25.
“Our focus is really on ourselves, collectively as a team,” said fourth-year captain Caitlin Moore. “We’ve had spurts of really great defense and really great offense at different moments throughout the season thus far. Now we are focusing on putting it together for a full 40 minutes.”
Last year, the Maroons were on the losing end of both games against WashU. At home last January, Chicago lost by a margin of 65–52. The South Siders suffered a similar fate on the road at the end of the season. Yet, Chicago managed to earn a share of the UAA championship (along with WashU) thanks to the Maroons’ stellar play across the rest of their conference schedule. As such, it is safe to expect a fiercely competitive matchup when these rivals meet this coming weekend.
“This game is always fun to play in because of the rivalry,” said Moore. “There is always a lot of energy and it is always the first and last team we play in conference, so everyone is even more amped up.”
Chicago is set to face WashU this Saturday, January 9 in St. Louis. These teams have met 61 times in their history. WashU holds a commanding lead in the lifetime series, but the confident Maroons are looking to upset the perennial favorites. This game will set the tone for the rest of the South Siders’ season and have huge UAA and NCAA tournament implications.