Going into the women's basketball season, Harper College's program was abuzz with optimism.
That optimism met up with reality Tuesday night in the Hawks' season opener at the Sports and Wellness Center in Palatine.
"My expectations were a little higher," said second-year Harper coach Nicole Jones following the Hawks' 85-51 loss to Elgin Community College (3-1).
The Hawks' starting lineup was comprised of four freshmen.
"I understood they were going to be nervous," Jones said.
Elgin set the pace early and grabbed a 6-0 lead. The Spartans pressed Harper's freshman guards, and Harper was held scoreless for the first 4:04 of the game, when Jayna Rowland (Christian Liberty) stopped the run.
"Your press creates your offense," said ECC coach Jerry McLaughlin, whose team forced 28 turnovers. "I thought our press helped us out a lot. It created a lot of baskets for us."
The bad news for the Spartans: They comitted 22 turnovers of their own. But Elgin had enough firepower to overcome it, as the trio of Alex Dumoulin, Carly Saraceno and Gianina Estocado keyed a 14-0 run.
That lead had stretched to 31-13 when, with 5:29 to play in the first half, Rowland again stopped an Elgin run by scoring 3 of her 12 points.
"I think Alex Dumoulin played a real strong game," McLaughlin said.
Dumoulin stuffed the stat sheet with a game-high 19 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals.
Harper freshman center Monica Hinderer was the tallest player in the game at 5 feet, 11 inches, but she struggled offensively with 7 points on 3-of-13 shooting while gathering a team-high 13 rebounds.
Harper's high scorers were Rachel Payne (Schaumburg Christian, 15 points) and Nicole Soderholm (Buffalo Grove, 14). The two freshmen produced 58 percent of Harper's scoring output.
"Even with a little nerves, she has been aggressive," said Jones of Payne's effort. "We've got a little more offense out of here than we were depending on."
The knockout blow came with the ECC leading 40-26 in the second half. The Spartans used a 30-2 run over a span of 9:42 and increased their lead to 70-28.
Michelle Dumoulin finished with 13 points, and Estocado had 10 for Elgin.