BENNINGTON -- Southern Vermont College's Sarah McDonald posted career-high numbers in last Friday's win over Morrisville State, and on Monday the sophomore was honored as the New England Collegiate Conference Player of the Week for her performance in the contest.
The Mountaineers got a huge win last week when they topped Morrisville State 57-54, and McDonald's huge night played a pivotal role.
McDonald had career, and game, highs of 25 points and 16 rebounds in the victory while shooting 60 percent (12-of-20) from the floor.
"This is something I have been seeing coming with her," SVC coach Mike Quinn said of his sophomore. "This year, she is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence. Once she got going, there was literally no stopping her. The only one who could stop her was herself."
The win closes out the 2013 part of the schedule for the Mountaineers, who head into the winter break with a 2-7 record. The team plays next on January 4 at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the final game in the team's non-conference schedule.
"It was extremely important to get the win," Quinn said. "The team needed that win. They were competing, but they weren't finishing. We talked about finishing all year, and they took this one serious and they got the win that they really needed."
Quinn also noted that the weekly nod was a good way to build confidence in not only the team, but in McDonald.
"It is very important for the program, but at this point it is more important for Sarah because it is a tremendous confidence boost. The better she plays, the better we are going to be," Quinn said.
Quinn noted that the team was coming off a week in which it saw the top three teams in the NECC. The Mountaineers fell in all three of the contests, but Quinn saw that his team was competing.
"We were really tested. We competed in those games, so when we saw Morrisville coming in we knew what we had to do, and we knew what we had to do better," said Quinn.
The team is now off until the end of the winter break. Quinn said that he gave simple advice to his players knowing that they would have a strenuous week of exams coming up: "I tell them they should take a couple days break after they get done with this week. If you do go to a gym: Don't get hurt."
After riding high with a 6-1 record entering last week, the Mountaineer men were brought back down to earth with a 95-75 loss to Union College last week.
The game presented SVC with a chance to cement a spectacular non-conference start against area teams, which included wins over Williams, St. Joseph's (VT), RPI, Sage College, and Green Mountain College, but instead the team was dealt a sour loss.
"We did just about everything in our power to not do what we practice," coach Dan Engelstad said. "We got away from what made us successful. I told the guys it is hard to beat anyone on the road. But when you go to that environment, away from home, you have to stick to your core."
The Mountaineers will be able to bounce back before the Christmas break when the team travels to Hood College in Frederick, Md. for the Rotary Holiday Classic this coming weekend. The two-day tournament will see SVC play Penn State-Harrisburg in the first game of the tournament. The winner of that game will advance to play the winner of the Bryn Athyn versus hosts-Hood in the championship game on Sunday. The losers will play in the consolation game.
And for a team that boasts eight players from the Maryland area, plus coach Engelstad, the tournament is a homecoming of sorts.
"For me, it means a lot," junior Izzy Melton, who is from Silver Spring, Md., said. "We are going back home."
Freshman guard Davante Jordan, who is from Baltimore, said that "We are real hungry. That loss [to Union], we had a long wait to play again. The team is going to give it their all."
For Engelstad, the trip to Maryland provides him an opportunity to go back to his roots, but he knows the team has to keep focus when the game starts.
"I know they are going to be up for this one, now it is about bottling them and making sure we play the way we can," Engelstad said.
Southern Vermont will then head into the break after the weekend, with league play starting on January 7 on the road at Becker College.