By Aaron Gillis
Western women’s basketball became just the 15th team in women’s college basketball history to record 1,000 wins after a 69-58 victory over Saint Martin’s on Saturday night at Sam Carver Gymnasium.
Head coach Carmen Dolfo, in her 27th season at the helm, is one of three coaches who contributed to the 1,000 wins.
“We’ve had fabulous people here and a fabulous administration who has supported women,” Dolfo said. “I’m super happy for our program, and I think it says a lot about our institution and our athletic department. But we need to get better, and I feel like we slowly are.”
Redshirt freshman Gracie Castaneda had a game-high 18 points, going 9 for 10 from the free throw line, and added four assists and two steals to lead the Vikings to the win.
The Vikings improved their record to 7-9 overall, and 3-5 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, snapping a four-game losing streak.
Castaneda was reintroduced into the starting lineup after previously being removed, but it didn’t matter to her.
“I don’t care about starting, I just want to focus on what’s best for the team,” Castaneda said.
Dolfo praised Castaneda’s athleticism.
“She is so fast, and just really quick with the ball,” Dolfo said. “When she just decides to go, I think that is her best option.”
Coach Dolfo emphasized the team’s defense, which forced 21 points off turnovers, as a key factor in holding off Saint Martin’s.
“I thought we did a better job defensively,” Dolfo said. “I thought we played good team defense and were helping each other out a little bit better than we did previously.”
Castaneda said communication was the deciding factor on the defensive end.
“We talked a lot together as a team, which forces us to be on the same page,” Castaneda said.
Sophomore Dani Iwami had 13 points and five steals, and hit three of the team’s five 3-pointers.
“Dani really stepped up in handling the point,” Dolfo said. “She is our spark. She can drive, and she can dish, and she can hit the three.”
Western shot only 15 percent from the field in the first quarter, but turned things around in the second. Iwami led the charge by hitting a 3-pointer, then stealing the ball on the next possession and laying it up for two more, all part of a 13-4 run by the Vikings.
Saint Martin’s cut the lead to three points with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, thanks to five quick points from Sara Bowen, but the Vikings responded with an 8-1 run of their own to extend the lead back to 10 and seal the victory.
Sophomore Lexie Bland had 12 points, senior Hannah Stipanovich had 10 points and eight rebounds, and sophomore Anna Schwecke had nine points and six rebounds to help lead the Vikings.
The team next heads to Nampa, Idaho to take on Northwest Nazarene (10-3, 6-2 GNAC) on Thursday night.