WASHINGTON – If there has been a theme for this year's American University women's basketball team, it is that the Eagles always find a way. Friday's night's home matchup against Navy was no different, as AU fought back after a tough first quarter without two of its key players to come away with the 46-41 win over the Midshipmen.
The Eagles sit alone as the only undefeated team in conference play at 3-0 in the PL and 10-5 overall. The Mids, who entered the season as the No. 1 team in the Patriot League Preseason Poll and received votes in the latest AP Top 25, continue their losing skid at 11-3 overall and 1-2 in the league.
With junior starter Cecily Carl and junior guard Kaitlyn Lewis out of the game due to illness, the Eagles looked to sophomore guard Katie Marenyi to make her first career start as an Eagle. Marenyi stepped up to the challenge, helping lead the Eagles defensively while tying her career-high with 12 points.
Senior Michael Harris led the team's overall scoring efforts with 13 points while bringing down six rebounds. Senior Maria Liddane led on the boards with a career-high nine rebounds and contributed a team-high six assists and three steals.
The Mids were led by a 10-point effort from Laurel Jaunich. Hannah Fenske led on the boards with eight rebounds.
Both teams struggled with shooting, hitting new season-lows from the field. AU just edged Navy with 30.8 percent from the floor while the Mids were held to 29.6 percent.
The Eagles battled well on the boards, holding Navy, who entered the game leading the PL with 41.7 rpg, to only 39 rebounds. AU landed just above their 34.8 rpg average with 37 total boards.
Scoring woes haunted both teams early on, as the game remained scoreless until nearly five minutes in when a Navy jumper gave the Mids the first lead. The Eagles continued to struggle until the final two minutes when freshman Indeya Sanders put up a jumper less than a minute after coming off the bench.
It was a footrace of a first quarter, though, as AU gave up six turnovers and Navy seven. By the end, both teams had put up their lowest first-quarter scores of the season with Navy leading, 7-2.
The momentum picked up in the second quarter, with Navy landing early baskets to take a 10-point lead before a pair of free throws from Marenyi sent AU on a 6-0 run to land back within four. The back-and-forth battle continued throughout the remainder of the half, but Navy held on to its lead and entered the locker room with a 22-15 advantage over the Eagles.
Senior Emily Kinneston led the Eagles out of the locker room, hitting a 5-0 run by herself off a trey and jumper after a key steal from Liddane cut Navy's second possession of the half short. Another pair of baskets from Harris and junior Elina Koskimies extended that run to 9-0 as the Eagles took their first lead of the game at 24-22.
Although Navy regained the lead briefly after a quick five points from Molly Sanders and Dunham, AU continued to control the momentum throughout the remainder of the quarter, leading by as much as five before closing with a one-point advantage at 38-37.
The tables seemed to turn back in Navy's favor early in the fourth quarter after an early run gave them back a three-point lead. Once again, the Eagles were unable to connect from the floor, shooting 0-for-5 in the final 10 minutes. But key free throws from Harris and Marenyi, who both shot 5-for-6 from the line, put the Eagles back up by four with less than two minutes left.
A loose ball with less than a minute nearly ended with an AU turnover, but a Navy foul put Kinneston on the line where she secured the game with the final five-point lead, 46-41.
The Eagles will have another tough matchup on Monday as the team travels to Army for a 7 p.m. tipoff. For the latest on AU Women's Basketball, stay tuned to AUEagles.com and follow the team on Twitter @AU_WBasketball.