Hailey Leidel proving how crucial she is to the UMass women’s basketball team

Leidel led the team with 37 points over that span

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Hailey Leidel proving how crucial she is to the UMass women’s basketball team

Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

By Tim Sorota, Collegian Staff

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The first two games of the Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s season may have been the worst games of senior captain Hailey Leidel’s career. She was shooting poorly, the team had a low field goal percentage overall and worst, they were losing.

“We can’t go 2-for-11. That we can’t do,” head coach Tory Verdi said of his star player’s 3-point stat line after last Saturday’s 72-63 loss to Providence.

In the two games since, Leidel has been brilliant.

In the win over UMass Lowell, Leidel dropped 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Leidel led the team in scoring with 17 points in the Minutewomen’s (2-2) 74-48 win over Hartford on Sunday afternoon.

In the four days between the Providence loss and the win over UMass Lowell, Verdi did not notice any changes in Leidel’s game. Rather, he pointed to adjustments she made off the court.

“I think she took a deep breath and started to relax a little bit,” Verdi said. “If anyone knows Hailey like I have for the past four years, knows that she is a perfectionist and wants to make every shot. I think she took a step back, thought about some things, but lately she has been terrific. I think her focus, her want to, playing on both sides of the ball. She’s been really good for us lately.”

Leidel takes a lot of pressure to generate offense off of the shoulders of guards Destiney Philoxy, Vashnie Perry, and Bre Hampton-Bey just by being on the court, even when her shots aren’t falling.

“Even when I’m not hitting, people know I have the potential to, so it just spreads out the defense,” Leidel said. “I know Vash and Destiny and a lot of our drivers, I know that probably puts some pressure off of them because if they attack my side, you’re not really going to get any help.”

When her shots are falling, UMass is a dangerous team. Her success shooting the ball has had a direct correlation with the performance of some other players and how the team has fared.

Perry has been a prime example of this. In UMass’ two wins where Leidel was the leading scorer in both, Perry has gone 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. In the Minutewomen’s two losses where Leidel struggled in both, Perry did as well, shooting 1-for-9 from distance.

While still respecting Leidel’s shooting stroke when she was struggling, Merrimack and Providence were able to give her a bit more space and cheat towards the center to play tighter defense on whoever had the ball. UMass Lowell and Hartford did not have that luxury.

Leidel’s impact on the Minutewomen extends far beyond her 3-point shooting. Like many of the upperclassman, she plays with a high motor which some of the younger players have been feeding off of.

“She definitely brings a lot of energy to the team,” freshman Angelique Ngalakulondi said. “and when she hits her shots, it just fuels us up a lot more.”

Tim Sorota can be reached by email at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @TimSorota.