For the first seven games of the season, five of the six freshmen on the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team saw only spot duty, watching mostly from the bench as their more experienced teammates drove the Mules to a 7-0 start and a No. 13 ranking in the national poll.
Last night, they got their chance, and did they ever make the most of it.
The five freshmen – Abby Stenger, Laura Gregory, Nicole Pepe, Janelle Fleet and Emily Lesher – combined to outscore Bryn Mawr, totaling 50 points in a 115-43 win that tied the school record for biggest margin of victory. The quintet had scored 31 points total in the first seven games.
(The sixth freshman, Hannah Rush, has seen more playing time but did not dress for last night’s game.)
“We’re all willing to wait our turn,” said Gregory, who scored 12 points and pulled down a team-high seven rebounds in 14 minutes. “We all have so much respect for the upperclassmen. The players ahead of me, Alita Zabrecky and Kim Mui, are the players I want to become.
Scoring 115 points was a new experience for everyone except the coaching staff, which was around when the Mules ran the Grinnell system and averaged 90.8 points per game in 2003-04. Muhlenberg reached triple digits eight times that season and twice more the following year, but had done so only once since.
And it was a welcome new experience for Stenger, whose James River High School team played in a few games with big scores.
“Usually we were on the other side of that score,” she said. “It was exciting to be on the winning side.”
Muhlenberg led 50-22 at halftime – the third time this season it has scored at least 50 points in the first half. The Mules finished the first two games with 94 and 85, but this time they scored 20 points in the first four minutes of the second half, coming up empty on only one of 10 possessions, to extend their lead to 70-28.
“It was crazy how fast they were scoring!” said Gregory (pictured).
The Mules slowed the scoring pace a little for the next few minutes, but then picked it up again, with 25 points in the last 7:30. The freshmen accounted for 19 of those points, with Stenger pouring in eight of her team-high 20 during that span.
“We all just played really hard, and the baskets came,” said Stenger. “We definitely played our hardest, and that’s why we were able to score as much as we did. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it again this season.”
Whether it happens this season or more in future seasons, it looks like the members of this freshman class will have many more baskets coming their way for Muhlenberg.