BENNINGTON -- In a seasons filled with firsts for the Southern Vermont College men's basketball team, a losing streak was bound to pop up somewhere for the Mountaineers.
And that moment is now.
SVC enters the week with a three-game losing streak and, as the team heads into Tuesday's home contest against Lesley University, coach Dan Engelstad was very blunt in his assessment of the team's upcoming game.
"If there is a must-win game, this is it," Engelstad said. "We have to protect our home. We were in a battle and we controlled our destiny at this point a week ago and we let a few slip at home."
SVC, currently 12-8 overall and 6-5 in the New England Collegiate Conference, was sitting pretty two Fridays ago at 6-2 in the conference with a big win on the road over NECC leaders Mitchell College. But a 73-70 loss to Elms College and a 78-72 loss to Becker College in the following two games, both at home, dropped the Mountaineers out of the regular season title race, and a 77-74 loss in overtime to Newbury College over the weekend has the team sitting fifth in the conference.
"You hit a low and you have to bounce back," Engelstad said. "I think we are going to get back on track. It is a long process. We have had ups and downs and we knew [that] would be a part of it."
But while the three-game skid is a cause of concern around the SVC team, the Mountaineers know that a lot of the problems that popped up during the stretch are fixable.
The team had to deal with the absence of leading scorer DeShawn Hamlet during the first two losses due to disciplinary action, while in the loss to Newbury the team went 18-for-37 from the free throw line while also committing 24 turnovers to Newbury's 15. The team was up by double digits heading into halftime before falling in the end.
"It was a gut-wrenching loss. We had them down big time," Engelstad said. "We let them hang around long enough. Any time you go on the road, you want to put the hammer down ... and we didn't."
Hamlet returned for the Newbury game, posting a 29 point, 11 rebound double double, but Engelstad also noted the shuffling of lineups led to some continuity issues.
"We have had some things that have come up. It is about finding the rotations and trying to get the chemistry back to where it was and hopefully improve it."
Another boost for SVC in its quest to get back on track is the opponent on Tuesday. Lesley enters the contest with a 2-14 record overall and is 0-8 in the NECC. The Mountaineers beat Lesley 83-62 earlier this season.
The Mountaineers will then hit the road for two more games this week as the team travels to Daniel Webster on Thursday for a rematch of a 92-85 OT win for SVC earlier this season before ending the week at Wheelock College on Saturday.
The Southern Vermont College women's basketball team snapped a six-game losing streak over the weekend in a 58-53 win over Newbury, keeping the team's New England Collegiate Conference postseason hopes alive.
With only seven teams getting an invite to the conference tournament, SVC is currently in 8th with a 3-10 conference mark. Newbury, in 7th, is 4-8 after falling at the weekend.
The Mountaineers will have a battle to try and secure the 7th seed, and it will start with a home-and-away with Becker College this week. The Mountaineers will travel to Becker on Tuesday before returning home for a Thursday night showdown. On Saturday, the team will have to travel to Wheelock College, a team the Mountaineers topped 79-66 earlier this season.
The Mountaineers have consistency with guard Amber Flagg still leading the team in scoring while Sarah McDonald continues to be a post presence, but the team will look for the continued inputs of Mariah Anthony, Javasha White and Kala MacKenzie to get the team over the hump and into the postseason.