It would be an understatement to say it has been a rough start to the season for the Monmouth Hawk’s women’s basketball team.
The team has crawled out of the gates losing their first six games without presenting much resistance; as evidenced by their average loss margin of just over 17 points per game (to be perfectly fair, much of this is due to a 54 point loss at the hands of the nationally no.1 ranked Connecticut Huskies. Yet even without this game, the margin is still over 10 points a game). Not exactly how you would want to open a fresh season. Monmouth however is no stranger to slow starts. They faced similar circumstances last season when it began their 2012-13 campaign at a 1-7 pace, before climbing back and eventually finishing at a steady 15-15.
This year however, it will be a much tougher task for the Hawks to return to a .500 record. The team is exceptionally young, boasting only two seniors in comparison to five freshman and four sophomores. And for smaller Division I schools that don’t necessarily get the best recruits in the world, experience can mean everything.
Former U19 and U21 New Zealand representative Chevannah Paalvast is one of the two seniors on the Hawks. A 6’0 combo guard/forward, Paalvast started in 26 of the 28 games she played in last season and finished in the top five on her team in points, rebounds and assists per game (11 ppg, 4.9 rpg and 1.4 apg). Big things were expected (and needed) this year from the Auckland native in order for Monmouth to taste success. But with a heavy load to carry, the start of the year has yielded mixed results for Chevannah. On one hand there is no doubt that her current stats of 11.8 points, 6.5 boards, 1.4 assists, 1.2 blocks and one steal a game showcase her all-around game and abilities to dominate on the court. But a mere 31.3 shooting percentage and four turnovers a game raise questions about her efficiency and consistency in the long run.
Case in point: Monmouth opened their regular season on November 9 against Yale University. In a 64-55 loss, Chevannah contributed five points on 2-14 shooting from the field, five rebounds, three blocks and four turnovers. Only a week later against former Northeast Conference rival Wagner, the script was completely flipped as Paalvast recorded 22 points on 9-19 shooting, 10 boards, two blocks and only two turnovers.
This trend has continued throughout the season.
Nov. 19 vs. Delaware: 16 points, 10 rebounds, 6-10 from the field.
Nov 22 vs. St. Bonaventure: 12 points, six rebounds, six turnovers, 3-18 from the field.
Nov. 23 vs. Connecticut: two points, four rebounds, three turnovers, 1-7 from the field.
Nov. 24 vs. Boston University: 14 points, four rebounds, 4-12 from the field.
As I said before there is no doubting Paalvast’s talents. An explosive and athletic player with the ability to attack the rim at will, block shots and guard multiple positions, she is exceptionally versatile. What is lacking and continuously brings Paalvast’s game down, is a consistent 15-20 foot jumper. Last year Paalvast shot only 24% from beyond the arc and this season (so far) has actually seen a dip in this category; she is currently sitting at 16% while averaging three attempts a game.
Chevannah has shown both flashes of brilliance as well as games better left to be forgotten through the beginning of the 2013-14 campaign. If she can put together her fantastic skill set in one consistent fashion moving forward it would be enormous for a team still in search of their first win. As a fixed starter averaging a team high 32.8 minutes per game, I firmly believe that the Massey High graduate is more than capable of putting up 14 point, 10 rebound type of numbers on a reliable basis. Two outstanding double-doubles already on the year are a clear demonstration. If her shot selection and outside jumper each show a level of development, it could make for a solid final year at Monmouth for the redshirt senior. Monmouth head coach Jenny Palmateer praised Paalvast’s efforts in taking on the new leadership role and says she’s fully capable of producing big stats each time she hits the court,
“Chevy (Paalvast) had probably the best summer she’s ever had,” said Palateer,
“She really is committed and took her commitment to a whole new level,” she said,
“She’s always been on a team where she had a lot of people to look up too and I think this is the first year that everybody is looking up to her.”
For the Monmouth Hawks their next game will be no easy task, as they travel to meet a talented Bowling Green squad who have already taken down the likes of Ohio State and Michigan en route to a 6-1 record. Barring an upset, Monmouth’s best chance of securing their first win on the year will be at home against the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (3-3) on Dec. 3. And as usual, Monmouth will look to Chevannah Paalvast to carry the brunt of the load and lead them to an elusive first victory.