York College finally felt like it had everything fixed.
Forward Kristen Haley followed a scoreless first half by getting the Spartans' first 10 points to start the second half.
Then guards Loreta Tonuzi and Kelsey Murphy buried back-to-back 3-pointers to give York its largest lead of the night at eight points with 11:46 remaining.
Then the turnover problems, an issue most of the game, returned. Catholic University forced seven turnovers on York's next nine possessions and used them to go up five points with under four minutes to play. The deficit proved be too much for the Spartans, and Catholic hung on for a 60-52 non-conference victory Monday night in a match-up of two top-25 NCAA Division III women's basketball teams at the Charles Wolf Gymnasium inside the Grumbacher Center.
In a game that saw five lead changes, York (25) and Catholic (19) combined for 44 giveaways.
"A couple times against the pressure we were just a little unsure of ourselves, which at this point in the season we shouldn't be," York coach Betsy Witman said.
York (11-2) has now lost two straight after starting the year with a program-record 11 straight wins. Although they're still ranked No. 11 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll, the Spartans dropped from No. 11 to No. 18 in the latest d3hoops.com poll following Saturday's 61-51 loss to Richard Stockton.
Catholic, meanwhile, improved to 13-0. The Cardinals are ranked No. 21 in the USA Today poll but jumped ahead of York in the d3hoops.com poll from No. 20 to No. 17 after recently moving into the top-25 rankings for the first time in program history.
"We expect a lot out of ourselves," said Cardinals' senior starter and York Catholic grad Jenny McGann. "We came in this year wanting to be ranked because our program has never been ranked before. So, I think we're like No. 21 now and hopefully moving up."
Emily Grabiak (14 points) and Jill Woerner (12 points) paced Catholic. McGann scored two points in 34 minutes of action. But she helped the Cardinals shut down her former York Catholic teammate and the Spartans' leading scorer, Brittany Hicks. Entering the night averaging a team-high 17.1 points a game, Hicks was held to a season-low seven points. The performance came after Hicks missed Saturday's game because of a family obligation.
Tonuzi came off the bench to drain four of six 3-point attempts to finish with a career-high 12 points. The rest of the team shot 3-of-15 (20 percent) from beyond the arc. Tonuzi and Haley (12 points) paced the Spartans. But Tonuzi saw limited action because of a partially torn plantar fasciitis in her foot.
On top of playing their fifth game in 10 days, the Spartans' lack of depth caught up to them, with Tonuzi playing while hobbled and Haley, Hicks and Aja Wallpher playing most of the second half with three fouls.
"I know we're a good team. We have a really solid lineup," Witman said. "We just don't have the depth right now. And when we get in foul trouble or we get fatigued, it's difficult."
Despite two straight losses, Witman is optimistic her team can turn its fortunes around with the bulk of the Capital Athletic Conference schedule remaining, starting Wednesday when the Spartans host Salisbury at 6 p.m.
"Can we still improve on some things? Absolutely," Witman said. "This stretch is over now. I have the season in a couple different parts. We're at the line now where we move into conference play."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.