Mystics Return Home, Look to Right Ship

After nine days away from Verizon Center, the Mystics (6-9) return home from a rough road trip to begin a three game homestand, beginning Friday night against the Connecticut Sun. Then then host the San Antonio Stars Sunday afternoon and wrap up the stand on Wednesday night against the Indiana Fever.

The previous road trip was also the young team’s first extended stint away from Washington, D.C. this season. When asked about how the team dealt with the trip, rookie guard Bria Hartley said that although there was a lot of traveling involved, the team was able to adjust quickly.

Despite the 1-3 mark resulting from the road trip, the Mystics are coming home showing signs for hope. In the past two games, the Mystics have shot the ball well and it culminated in a convincing Tuesday afternoon 11-point win in San Antonio.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak that saw the Mystics endure multiple heartbreakers. In both losses against Atlanta, Washington was in position to win until the Dream pulled away in the fourth quarter. And before the win against San Antonio, the Mystics dropped a hard-fought game in overtime against the Seattle Storm, 89-86.

Although the losses were disappointing, they showed that Washington is a competitive team that is not far off from being able to win consistently. Hartley gave credit to the other teams that “made some great plays in the end” of the games but added that, “even [though] some of the games we lost, we were playing better.”

In the San Antonio game, the Mystics finally performed to their abilities for an extended period of time. As they have all season, the team played great defense, holding the Stars to 39.1% shooting, but they also shot, for the second game in a row, above 50%—52.2% in the loss against Seattle and 50.8% against San Antonio.

The improved play needs to continue as the season is nearing its midway point, and if the Mystics hope to reach the playoffs, winning these next games at home will be crucial.

In addition to a rematch against the Stars on Sunday, this homestand will also feature match ups against two conference rivals that currently sit above the Mystics in the Eastern Conference standings, the Connecticut Sun on Friday and the Indiana Fever next Wednesday.

The Mystics have shown this season that they rely on a variety of players to step up and be the scorer for a game. With that said, they will be looking for Hartley’s continued production, which includes a career-high 26 points in the overtime loss in Seattle, and one hopes that veteran Ivory Latta’s strong third quarter against San Antonio means that she is back to her dangerous self after failing to reach double-digit points for three straight games.

In their last game against the Sun, the Mystics relied on center Kia Vaughn to lead the team to a 74-66 win. Vaughn had a strong performance, putting up 16 points and grabbing 8 boards. However, in order to ensure another win over Connecticut Friday night, Vaughn and the Mystics defense need to contain the 2014 number one overall pick Chiney Ogwumike, who had 16 points and 9 rebounds for the Sun last time out and was almost able to push the Sun to a win.

Other key pieces of Washington’s success must also continue to grow and improve. Rookie center Stefanie Dolson has shown flashes of dominance this season, such as her ten-point fourth quarter performance on Tuesday that helped the Mystics extend their lead against the Stars.

Similarly, second-year forward Emma Meesseman has given the entire league a glimpse of how bright her future could be, quietly turning in two double-doubles this season using her sound fundamentals.

But, the players must perform consistently at the level they are capable of. This is one of the building blocks of a successful team. Washington must become more consistent and be able to protect its home turf, proving why these next three home games will be vital for the Mystics season. As the year progresses and the team grows with experience, the consistency should follow.

When asked about how she feels about finally coming home, Hartley said, “We feel good. We’re glad to be back home. We just want to get some wins here.”