Entering into conference play on Tuesday, Dec. 5 did not change Spring Valley's recent luck.
The Cardinals remain winless after suffering their fourth loss of the season to the Glenwood City Hilltoppers. GC defeated SV 38-33 in what Cardinals head coach Sean Hoolihan described as a "sloppy game."
SV's first-half sloppiness came from the team's failure to grab rebounds, while GC struggled to finish easy shots in the paint.
Tessa Cipriano scored the first points of the game for the Cardinals, and the Hilltoppers responded by grabbing three offensive rebounds in their second possession of the night. The third GC board resulted in an SV shooting foul, which sent Mariah Voeltz to the free-throw line.
Voeltz was one-for-two at the line, but the Hilltoppers made another trip to the charity stripe after SV's Lexi Johansen fouled Jenesa Klinger on a bunny. Klinger followed Voeltz's lead and tied the score at 2-2 with 13 minutes on the clock.
The Cardinals scored the next five points of the game on a Johansen three and a Lydia Wittmer pull-up jumper, but on the defensive end, SV continued to send GC to the free-throw line despite switching to a 2-3 zone to clog up the lane.
The Hilltoppers scored seven of their 16 first-half points from the charity stripe, and led the Cardinals by four at the break.
Senior Brianna O'Brien ignited a Cardinals run to start the second half, and Johansen followed suit by going two-for-two at the line to tie the game up at 16-16. A Camryn Wegener basket put the Cardinals back on top with 15:19 left in the game, and three GC turnovers brought hope to the Cardinals' bench.
That hope was augmented with a Wegener three from the right corner, a Wittmer jumper from the left elbow, her hot spot of the night, and another Wegener basket, which gave the Cardinals their largest lead of the night at 25-17.
From there, the Hilltoppers went on a 6-0 run of their own, and a seemingly flustered Cardinals team began to force passes to covered teammates.
Hoolihan called a timeout at 8:05 once GC regained the lead at 27-25, but the Cardinals continued to play rattled out of the huddle by forcing shots and passes before they could get into an offensive rhythm.
The Hilltoppers scored another easy bucket to take a four-point lead, but Wegener answered with a three-point play to bring the score to 28-29 and give her Cardinals team another burst of energy.
SV came close to picking off a wing-to-wing skip pass in GC's next possession, but GC recovered the loose ball and picked up another SV foul. The Cardinals caught a break when the Hilltoppers went zero-for-two at the free-throw line, but SV gave GC a chance to redeem themselves from the charity stripe by committing another foul shortly after GC's two misses at the line.
This time, Klinger missed both free throws, but an SV lane violation gave the GC senior a third foul shot, which she took advantage of.
Down 28-30, SV missed another shot in their next trip down the court, and committed another foul, which turned into a three-point play for the Hilltoppers.
Despite their frustrating mishaps, the Cardinals began to slow things down offensively, and were able to match GC's score of 33 with five Johansen points. But SV couldn't quite put all of the pieces together and gave up a wide-open three-pointer on the other end before Hoolihan called his final timeout of the night.
The Cardinals got one more look on the offensive end, but another forced shot was no good, and the Hilltoppers sealed the deal by sinking two more free throws in front of their bench.
"I've got to do a better job of coaching," Hoolihan said following his team's loss. "I'm proud of how they battled, we've just got to get better at slowing our minds down."
Hoolihan estimated that his team made 20-25 "basic, silly" turnovers.
"Our girls are pressing so hard at trying to make a play happen, rather than letting it happen," Hoolihan said.
Hoolihan said his team was down when he entered the locker room following the loss, but that he told them that they should be proud of their effort.
"The effort thing is one of those things that you have total, 100 percent control over," Hoolihan said, "and they have every night this year given 100 percent effort.
"We'll bounce back."
Wegener led the Cardinals in scoring with 12 points, and Johansen finished right behind her with 10.
Cipriano (five), Wittmer (four) and O'Brien (two) made up SV's remaining 11 points.
Klinger led all scorers with 15 points.
Spring Valley continues their pursuit for their first win on Friday, Dec. 8 at Colfax against the 2-2 Vikings who are coming off a 67-13 win against Boyceville. Tip-off for the Dunn-St. Croix matchup is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.