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Vassar women’s basketball team defeats previously undefeated Montclair State, ranked third in the nation

Co-captain Cydni Matsuoka gets a hug from teammate, senior Jarae Farrell.
Co-captain Cydni Matsuoka gets a hug from teammate, senior Jarae Farrell.

Four days after the Vassar women’s rugby team excelled on a national stage, the women’s basketball team is grabbing some national attention too. In its second game since achieving a Top 25 ranking for the first time, the Brewers defeated third-ranked Montclair (NJ) State University, 63-58, Wednesday night before a spirited crowd at the Athletics and Fitness Center.

Vassar’s All-American point guard Cydni Matsuoka struggled on offense, hitting on just three of 12 shots from the field. But two of them ignited Vassar’s comeback from an eight-point deficit late in the game. In typically modest fashion, Matsuoka praised her teammates for grinding out the win.

Head Coach Candice Brown (left) and assistant coach Kaleigh Lussier.
Head Coach Candice Brown (left) and assistant coach Kaleigh Lussier.

“We’re not a team of superstars,” Matsuoka says. “Basketball is a team game. Every player on this team works hard every day, and they all stepped up in the biggest game of the year.”

The win was the second big time performance for a Vassar team in less than a week. On Dec. 7 and 8, the women’s rugby team split a pair of games at the American Collegiate Rugby Association championships in Auburndale, FL to finish the season third in the country.

Montclair State came into Wednesday’s game undefeated, averaging more than 80 points per game but finished the game more than 20 points below its average and shot just 32 percent from the field. Vassar head coach Candice Brown says her team’s defensive effort was the key to the victory. “We put in some different sets and switches at the end of the game, and the team went out and executed them,” the coach says.

Left to right, players Allyson Pemberton, Nyah Berg, Jarae Farrell with assistant coach Kaleigh Lussier
Left to right, players Allyson Pemberton, Nyah Berg, Jarae Farrell with assistant coach Kaleigh Lussier

Brown called the victory “a defining moment for our program, to reach the top 25 for the first time ever and then get a win against top competition.”

Senior forward Hannah Senftleber sank a free throw to give Vassar a 51-50 lead with five minutes to go, then iced the game with two more foul shots with 25 seconds left.  “I went through my regular routine,” she says. “I just pretend I’m the only person in the gym.” Senftleber finished with 19 points and 18 rebounds and outplayed Montclair State’s All-American forward, Melissa Tobie.

Vassar has a couple of weeks to savor the victory, but the schedule doesn’t get any easier: The Brewers’ next opponent is Amherst, ranked fourth in the country, on Dec. 28 in the opening round of the Vegas Hoopla tournament in Las Vegas.

--Larry Hertz

Photo: Stockton Photography

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, December 13, 2013