Villanova is above .500 for the first time all season after winning three straight games to improve its record to 6-5. The biggest reason for the turnaround? The return of junior forward Maddy Siegrist, who missed a month of the season due to a hand injury.
To say Siegrist has hit the ground running since returning would be an understatement. In her first game back she posted career-highs of 36 points and 17 rebounds in a 76-67 victory over James Madison on Dec. 9. She followed that up with 28 points in a 56-52 win against Oregon State, and then 24 more in a 66-56 win at La Salle on Tuesday.
Alongside the victories came the personal accolades, as Siegrist was named both the USBWA National and Big East player of the week for her performances. But Siegrist’s answer was short when talking about what the awards meant to her.
“If I go out and play my best, and those awards come in great,” said Siegrist, “but I try not to read too much into them.”
With her recent explosion, Siegrist is averaging 21.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game after averaging just 10.5 ppg prior to her injury. Since the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., native entered the season averaging 20.6 points per game for her career, her start to the season was anything but expected.
“The coaching staff thinks I broke my hand in October, and I did not realize my first few games,” said Siegrist. “So when I fell on it in practice and really aggravated it, that’s ultimately what got it checked out and what took me out for a couple weeks.”
As soon as Siegrist knew she was going to miss some time, she began preparing for her return. Because “there wasn’t really time for me to get adjusted,” said Siegrist, the team’s leading scorer. “I made sure to keep my stamina up since I was able to run and ride the bike every day. The most difficult part was the fact that it was my shooting hand.”
Looking at Siegrist’s numbers before and after the injury proves even further that she was almost certainly dealing with the broken hand before she realized. In her two games before the fateful practice, Siegrist shot just 31% from the floor and 11% from three-point range. Since her return, Siegrist is shooting 45% from the floor and 40% from downtown.
Siegrist realized that the success of her return would largely depend on her ability to knock down outside shots, so seeing her first attempt of the game in her return against James Madison go through the net gave the her a major confidence boost.
“All I knew coming in was that I had to be able to shoot threes for a high percentage in order to have them guard me on the perimeter,” said Siegrist, “so when I saw that first one go in it was such a relief.”
Regardless of what Siegrist would have to do once she returned to action, she was just happy to finally rejoin her team and contribute once again. And even though she was an active vocal leader and supportive teammate while she was sidelined, Siegrist was excited to contribute on the floor again.
“Maybe one day I want to be a coach, but definitely not yet,” said Siegrist. “I just felt bad for my team the whole time because I was not there for them.”
As Villanova’s last win against La Salle marked the end of nonconference play, the Wildcats return to Big East play with some ground to make up. Despite losing their only two conference games, Seigrist’s return and the team’s current three-game winning streak has Villanova welcoming the conference slate with newfound confidence. Siegrist and Villanova look to continue their winning ways on Dec. 31 when they host Seton Hall.
“We feel really good coming off three tough victories,” says Siegrist. “All of them came down to the wire, so winning games like that really brings us all together and makes us stronger as a team.”