Tipping off the 2017-18 season with just two of last year's starters on the floor, EMU's basketball women were looking for an identity. They found it quickly in Wednesday's opener, using defense and ball movement to blow past talented Lancaster Bible College in Harrisonburg.
LBC has won the last five NEAC South Division titles, but starting one junior with four underclassmen, Eastern Mennonite trailed for only 19 seconds against the Chargers.
Lindsey Krisak (Alexandria, Va./Thomas E. Edison) hit the team's first three pointer at the 6:42 mark of the first and the Royals took off from there. They limited LBC to just four points the rest of the frame and closed on a 17-4 tear to lead 21-11 at the first break.
Jess Washington (Chesapeake, Va./Great Bridge) hit inside to push the margin to 20 points at 35-15, and later Kailey Landis (Harrisonburg, Va./Broadway) got an assist from fellow freshman Emily McCombs (Culpeper, Va./Eastern View) to bump the lead to 43-20 with 1:11 left in the half. That proved to be the biggest lead of the game for Eastern Mennonite.
The Royals led 43-25 at halftime.
Lancaster Bible carried some momentum into the second half and eventually used a jumper from Caitlin Hickey to cap a prolonged 19-8 run, getting within 51-39 late in the third.
But Eastern Mennonite used a quick 5-0 jab in the opening minute of the fourth to re-assert control, bumping a 12-point lead to a 58-41 cushion. Landis got a nice inside dish from Hope Simmons (Dayton, Va./Turner Ashby) after an offensive rebound to make a 71-49 lead, the biggest of the second half. The Royals emptied their bench from there, rolling to the finish.
The women won the game by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Including a 7-for-13 first half, the Royals made 10-of-22 three pointers for 46%. Defensively, they picked out 13 steals and were +9 in turnovers, 26-17.
Washington, Lexi Deffenbaugh (Fishersville, Va./Wilson Memorial) and D-II Concord transfer Taylor Baltimore (Bristow, Va./Battlefield) each scored 10 points to lead an extremely balanced effort. Washington added three steals, as did Brianna Zook (Harrisonburg, Va./Broadway).
Chrissy Delawder (Broadway, Va./Broadway) and McCombs each added nine points, while Landis chipped in eight. Center Cheyenne Suamataia-Teo (Stafford, Va./Mountain View) was good for six points and six rebounds in her first collegiate game.
Krisak, Simmons and McCombs each had three assists.
Kirsten Webster led LBC with 19 points and six assists. Courtney Goyak, an All-East Region selection and the nation's leading rebounder last year, hit a double double with 19 rebounds and 13 points. Hickey added 15, as four of the Chargers played 38 or more minutes.
Eastern Mennonite's women stay at home this weekend, hosting the EMU Tip-Off Invitational. The Royals get Hilbert College Friday night at 7:00pm, followed by Penn State-Altoona Saturday at 3:00pm. Salem College will also be in town for the weekend, and plays a game before EMU's each day.