Ironwomen long for victory

by Tom Coombe

The Vermilion Ironwomen are hoping that persistence pays off.<BR><BR>It’s been a long winter for the community college basketball team - with no victories yet and a difficult schedule featuring top state and regional contenders.<BR><BR>Vermilion is off to an 0-3 start in Northern Division play, after a 62-33 loss to division-leading Mesabi Wednesday at Virginia.<BR><BR>But the Ironwomen are finally about to catch a break in their schedule, and coach Ray Podominick hopes that leads to his squad’s first win of the year.<BR><BR>Starting with a weekend date at Itasca (6-7), the Ironwomen began a three-game stretch against other sub-.500 division opponents. They host Hibbing (4-11) Wednesday and Central Lakes (0-12) Saturday.<BR><BR>“I think we played the three toughest teams in the division already,” said Podominick. “We’re hoping we can pick up some wins here.”<BR><BR>With just eight players, VCC has little depth and that hurt against Mesabi.<BR><BR>The Ironwomen trailed by just nine points early in the second half, but Mesabi outscored VCC 29-9 the rest of the way.<BR><BR>“The girls gave a tremendous effort,” said Podominick. “They came out ready to play and I thought we played good defense by forcing 24 turnovers. We just didn’t hit any shots.”<BR><BR>Vermilion connected on just 23 percent of its field goal attempts in the game.<BR><BR>Gena Jerich, one of four former Ely Timberwolves on the roster, led Vermilion in scoring with 15 points.<BR><BR>Fellow Elyite Lara Doran added six points for Vermilion, and teammates Kelsey Edwards (five) and Meghan Pauley (four) were next.<BR><BR>Nicole Switzer had 20 points to pace the Norse, who are 4-0 in division play and 9-7 overall.<BR><BR>The Ironwomen started division play at home the weekend of Jan. 15-16.<BR><BR>Northland pulled away for a 75-55 win in the opener.<BR><BR>The Pioneers led 49-26 at halftime and maintained their edge in the second half, behind a combined 41 points from Ashley Kujawa and Alisa Kostin.<BR><BR>Jerich, who is ninth in the division in scoring with 13.2 points per game, had 14 points for Vermilion.<BR><BR>Doran knocked down three three-point shots and had 11 points. Edwards scored 10 points, Pauley finished with eight and Ely sophomore Krystle Smrekar had six points.<BR><BR>Other VCC scorers were Ely’s Jill Manning (three), Zandra Carlson (two) and Chris Venema (one).<BR><BR>Rainy River opened up a 47-21 lead at the half and held Vermilion to 14 points in the final 20 minutes en route to a 75-35 triumph on Jan. 15.<BR><BR>Edwards was the only Vermilion player in double digits with 16 points. Jerich scored eight points and Carlson poured in five.<BR><BR>Rozalind Jones had 14 points and led five Rainy River players in double figures.