The early-season struggles faced by the Saugerties High School girls’ varsity basketball appear to have been left behind, as the team’s hot streak continued through a cold January. The Sawyers beat conference rival FDR 61-48 at home on Friday, January 25 to improve their record to 10-7 overall and 5-3 in league play.
According to Sawyer coach Mike Melville, those early-season struggles were partially by design. “When I looked at our schedule at the beginning of the year, I really pushed these girls hard,” said Melville. “This is probably the toughest schedule I’ve ever seen.”
Melville cited divisional foes like FDR and New Paltz as being good tests for the Sawyers. Locally, Red Hook, Highland, Pine Bush and Marlboro have been tough challengers. The non-league schedule included Class AA and Class A powerhouses like five-time Section II champ Averill Park, Columbia, Shaker and Newburgh. Saugerties had a chance to toughen up. Which, Melville said, was by design.
“I’m not surprised at the losses, but even in our losses we really didn’t play terrible,” he explained. “We never went out and I thought, ‘Man, we were really bad tonight.’ We lost to Washingtonville where they have a 1000-point scorer in [Victoria] Pecovic and where we hold her down and two other people hit five threes in the second half.”
The Sawyers are the reigning Section IX, Class A champion, a distinction that gives opponents something to strive for: To be the best, you have to beat the best.
“We’ve been bringing out the best in other teams,” said Melville. “We’ve been getting everyone’s best shot, being the Section IX champs last year. Everybody’s up for us. It took us a while to get used to getting everybody’s best shot. It’s something we’re not, I wouldn’t say we’re not comfortable with it, but we’re not used to it. We were used to sneaking up on people last year and kind of giving them our best shot. Now people are coming at us hard, and it took us some time to realize that we have to play four quarters at a very high level to win these games.”
Which brings us back to the grand scheme: The Sawyers’ valiant fights in early season against tough opponents toughened them up so that they could be ready for the rigors of the playoffs.
A three-game win streak and dominant performances against teams both good and bad shows that Melville may have been on to something. “That’s the plan,” he said. “That’s why the scheduling is so tough. I scheduled for sectional play.”
As they say in all the professional sports, it’s really hard to repeat. Melville knew it was going to be extremely hard, which is why he made the schedule so hard. “It was either going to push them or break them,” he said. “I was a little concerned. We had some tough losses. But I think now, hopefully we can continue this roll and I’ll look like a genius. I don’t know, the jury’s still out on that.”
Against FDR, the Sawyers were up 34-21 at the half, and the Presidents never got any closer than that. Saugerties was led by Christie Collins’ 16 points, with Anna Van Roy (13 points, nine rebounds), Erin Dudzic (twelve points), Jaclyn Murphy (nine points, all from three-point range) and Julia Quinlan (two points, five rebounds) contributing. The team’s leading scorer, Grace Van Roy, was held to seven points, but grabbed ten rebounds in the win.
The team’s balanced attack was crucial in the win, and will be crucial going forward. “If you told me before the game that Grace would have seven points and we’re playing FDR, I’m saying we probably lost by 20,” said Melville. “When we play like that we’re really hard to beat. I was just proud of the girls. They realize that, but we need to be consistent with that. If Grace can do her thing and everybody else does their thing, you’re going to have to play really, really well to beat us.”
Three games remain on the Sawyers’ regular-season schedule, beginning with a visit from New Paltz this Friday, February 1. Saugerties hits the road against league opponent Marlboro next Tuesday before returning home to close out the regular-season slate on February 8 when they host Highland.