From left, the Princeton women’s basketball Class of 2015: Mariah Smith, Alex Rodgers, Blake Dietrick, and Jess Shivers. (Beverly Schaefer)
From left, the Princeton women’s basketball Class of 2015: Mariah Smith, Alex Rodgers, Blake Dietrick, and Jess Shivers. (Beverly Schaefer)

On Senior Night, all seniors traditionally start, even those who usually come off the bench. The seniors of the women’s basketball team, however, were less interested in that tradition than in preserving something else: their undefeated record. Seniors Mariah Smith ’15, Alex Rodgers ’15, and Jess Shivers ’15 told head coach Courtney Banghart they didn’t want to start.

“That’s the kind of senior class they’ve been,” Banghart said. “They have decided what’s important to them. What’s important to them is that the group excels.”

Of course, Banghart showed her appreciation for the group by starting them against Brown anyway. Rodgers and Shivers had an assist and a rebound apiece while Smith contributed eight points. It was the first time this season any of the three had started — only Smith had ever started at Princeton — but it only served to highlight the ways they have contributed to the team.

While Blake Dietrick ’15, the fourth senior on this year’s squad, has carved out a place in the record books and received attention from the national media, her classmates have helped hold the team together in ways that are harder to discern. Career substitutes, they have learned to gauge the tempo of the game, the feelings of the crowd and the mindset of both teams, mentally preparing to provide a shot of energy when Banghart calls them into action.

“They’re kind of my assistant coaches,” Banghart said. “They know that their piece in [the game plan] is the energy on the bench and all that.”

“I actually prefer that position, being able to see how the game is going, the flow of the game,” Rodgers said. “We know the [scouting report] front and back … we’re able to yell out if this person drives right, if this person drives left.”

And they energize more than just their fellow players. Rodgers says hyping up the crowd is one of her favorite duties.

“Since I’ve been here, everybody goes crazy on the bench,” she said. “And personally, I like being the crazy one. It’s my chance to be as crazy as I want — coach isn’t looking at me, she’s looking at the people on the court.”

That enthusiasm has brought a mixture of students and locals to the games, and Banghart was quick to point out how the seniors relate to the crowd.

“[They are] such a culmination of all parts of our community,” she said “And they have brought all parts of our community to our games.”

An easy win over the Bulldogs and a 79-67 defeat of Brown on Senior Night kept the Tigers, now 27-0, undefeated and two games ahead of Penn in the Ivy League. They will visit middle-of-the-pack Cornell and cellar-dwelling Columbia next weekend before closing out their season March 10 at Penn.

“We’ve had a concrete mission, having lost to Penn last year,” Rodgers said. “We’ve been working every day intentionally toward our goal. We’re reclaiming something, we’re bringing something back home.”

Quick Takes

Men’s swimming & diving won the Ivy League title, jumping out to an early lead as Harrison Wagner ’15 won the 50-yard freestyle individual, led off one Ivy record-setting relay, and anchored another. The Tigers would go on to sweep the relays, pulling away from defending champion Harvard to earn the program’s 30th league championship.

Men’s lacrosse improved to 3-0 with a thrilling 16-15 overtime win at Johns Hopkins Feb. 28. Gavin McBride ’17 scored the game-winning goal, his third of the game.

The baseball team kicked off its season in Baton Rouge, nearly taking down fourth-ranked LSU in its season opener Friday. Chad Powers ’17 let up just one earned run over five innings and was followed by shutout relief appearances from Nick Donatiello ’15 and Chris Bodurian ’16. Billy Arendt ’16 homered to start off the sixth, but Princeton could even it up in the last inning and lost 3-2. LSU won more handily in two games Saturday.

Nicole Bunyan ’15 of the women’s squash team cemented a place in the All-America top 10 with an upset of third-seeded Danielle Letourneau of Columbia in the quarterfinal at the CSA individual tournament. Letourneau did not give up easy, pushing the match to five games before Bunyan won 12-10. Men’s squash’s Sam Kang ’15, another All-American, made it to the quarterfinals of the men’s tournament, his last as a Tiger.