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Shenandoah women pick up first win in new gym

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University’s women’s basketball team christened the opening of the James R. Wilkins Jr. Athletics & Events Center on Wednesday night with the first-ever Shenandoah win.

Shenandoah used a key run late in the third quarter to pull out a 67-62 Old Dominion Athletic Conference victory over Bridgewater College.

“We came out with a lot of energy, for this being our first time playing in this gym,” Shenandoah’s Ashley Stone said. “There’s been a lot of talk about it. We all came together, got hyped up. And we’re like a family, so we came out strong.”

Shenandoah’s men played the first game of a doubleheader, and the women’s team said they watched the men play and it made them even more excited to get out on the new floor.

Shenandoah head women’s basketball coach Melissa Smeltzer-Kraft said there were a lot of emotions going into the game.

“It almost felt like the night before the very first game of the year,” Smeltzer-Kraft said. “You almost forget how exciting it can feel and that pit you get in your belly, because it was almost the unknown out here today. How many people were going to come? What it was going to feel like. We’ve been trying to visualize the idea of playing and running out through the tunnel and stuff like that. It met expectations, it exceeded expectations in terms of how great it actually felt. It’s been a long time coming.”

PLaying in the new gym was extra special for Shenandoah senior Kirstyn Arcata. The 5-foot-10 forward said she wasn’t sure if she would ever get to play in the gym.

“It was something I had been told would happen since my freshman year,” Arcata said. “But to get to play in it, to see the evolution of this building is absolutely amazing. We had so much energy. And we were super pumped to play in here (Wednesday).”

In a game of runs, the Hornets pulled away for good with a 14-5 run that spanned the third and fourth quarter and gave them a 54-40 lead.

Shenandoah’s Shannon Kuhn came off the bench to score 6 points during the run.

“Shannon Kuhn was the X-factor to the third quarter, and we cited that in the postgame talk,” Smeltzer-Kraft said. “We got to get her rolling, because if we’re going to be successful, she needs to get rolling with us.”

The Eagles (9-10, 5-6 ODAC) cut the lead to six with 1:05 left in the game. However, Arcata and Stone each scored a basket in the final minute to help seal the win.

Shenandoah (9-11, 5-6 ODAC) was led by Stone with 18 points and 6 rebounds. Jordan Sondrol had 16 points and 7 rebounds, and McKenzie Mathis had 6 points and 11 rebounds for the Hornets.

Shenandoah has now won two games in a row, with five games left in the regular season.

“It’s a huge win for all of us,” Sondrol said. “I think that as a team we’re working really well together. And there’s nowhere to go but up from here.”

Arcata scored her 1,000th point in Shenandoah’s 66-50 road win over Randolph Colege on Jan. 27. Arcata, who became the 19th Shenandoah women’s basketball player to reach 1,000 points, was honored for the achievement before the start of Wednesday’s contest.

“It was awesome,” Arcata said. “It was definitely a goal I had throughout the season. I think the icing on the cake was getting the win against Randolph. But it was an exciting moment for me.”

Smeltzer-Kraft said many of the sophomores came to Shenandoah in part because of the new gym the school was getting. Smeltzer-Kraft said she thinks it will continue to help with recruiting in the future.

“We have recruits coming to every single home game the rest of the season,” Smeltzer-Kraft said. “And it’s going to be hard to say “no” to playing here, I think. So I’m really happy that it’s ours.”

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