Alge Makes History
While going in for the rebound, a round object slammed into Michal Alge’s face.
“Hey ref, she punched me!” shouted Michal, looking for a foul call.
Anyone who knows team captain Michal away from the basketball court would think this aggressive proclamation to be out of character, as Michal is known to be soft-spoken and constantly smiling. But to those who have gotten know Michal on the court during her four-year career at Yeshiva, this intense sort of emotion is typical of the history-making Mac.
When Michal sank her one-thousandth point, a free-throw in a game against The College at Old Westbury on Dec. 14, she became the first female athlete at YU to reach the 1000 rebound/1000 points threshold. And, with these career accolades, she will be remembered as “one of the best to ever play” at YU according to Athletics Director Joe Bednarsh.
“I don’t think she knows she is 5’6’’,” commented Chana Boltax (SC ‘20), Michal’s teammate for both this season and last. “She plays like she is at least six feet tall.”
Averaging a double-double since the start of her Yeshiva career, Michal has been acting as Boltax described her, reaching far above her listed height to grab rebounds. She had her best rebounding year during the 2017-2018 season when she averaged 15.1 rebounds-per-game, good for fifth in the nation. After breaking 1000 in a game against St. Joseph's Long Island on Dec. 4, Michal sits at 1072 total career rebounds at the season’s midpoint.
Michal became the second athlete in program history to reach 1000 points by averaging 12.5 points per game in her first three and a half seasons. Her scoring game is mainly in the paint, with her trademark left-handed drive and spin move earning her the majority of her points. And because of her size, Alge found herself on the free-throw line over 600 times, scoring 368 points from the charity stripe because she drove into traffic against bigger opponents.
“She is now setting the standard for people to beat,” said Bednarsh.
How does Michal feel about her accomplishments?
“Honestly, I’m just glad its over,” she told The Commentator. “It was good to get it over with just so I can go back to just playing the game.”
Michal’s first year as a Mac, the 2015-2016 season, was also the first year the women’s team played in the Skyline Conference. In that first year playing in an established Division III conference, the Macs had just one win in 22 games. In the following two seasons, the team won another seven. This season, the team is playing noticeably better, already winning five games. Their 3-1 start to the season was the best in YU women’s basketball history.
“You have to focus on each game,” said Alge about her experiences with losing. “You try to forget about those big blowouts, but you also cannot be joking around and chilling after losing by twenty or thirty points. You have to strike a balance where you have fun but still take it seriously. It also allows me to better appreciate the games where we are competitive.”
Alge’s teammates applied her attitude to her even-keeled style of play.
“She always keeps you hype and tells you to keep your head up,” said Lindsay Brandwein, a sophomore guard and Michal’s teammate for the last season and a half. “Michal always knows exactly what to say to you to keep your head in the game.”
“She is an unselfish player and is always picking her teammates up when they get down,” said co-captain and senior point guard, Nikki Bick.
To Bednarsh, what stands out about her attitude is how “you never see her glare or stare at the next player or referee. Even if she knows it is a bad call, she jumps up and dusts herself off and goes to the free-throw line.” And if you do see Michal upset at a call, it is usually because she is upset with how she handled the play.
As a student who arrived in school a sophomore, playing for a fourth year is rare. Rebecca Yoshor, who is now second on the women’s all-time rebounding list behind Michal, finished her career with 831 rebounds after three years.
Guided by rule 126.96.36.199.7 in the NCAA handbook, the Athletics Department determined that Michal could play another year if she was taking a class that was necessary for her to graduate and if the national tournament for the season finished within sixty days of the class’s completion. Along with her full-time job with NCSY Summers, Michal is taking a speech class in Stern College to complete her psychology degree. The final day of the fall semester is Jan. 9 and the NCAA tournament is on March 15, within the allotted sixty days. Both of these criteria make it possible for Michal to play this season.
Though the Athletics Department worked with Michal to find a way for her to play, the conversation was initiated by Alge.
“I knew I wanted to play basketball for another year,” said Michal. After deliberating with her parents, she and decided that “there would be nowhere comparable to [YU] in terms of being shomer Shabbat or in terms of being a legitimate team. Being a Maccabee for one more season felt like the right option.”
“It is a little bit crazy this year — I’m working full time, and living all the way uptown when practices are downtown [at Baruch], I get home late. But you’ve got to work hard for the things you love. I’m still able to play in college for another year. It’s awesome.”
Growing up in Brookline, Mass., Michal first started playing basketball in her backyard with her two older brothers. She attended basketball camps as a ten-year-old and started playing for her Maimonides’ team in sixth grade. She joined the high school team in seventh grade, becoming a starter for the varsity high schoolteam in eighth. When asked what she remembered most about those games, Michal immediately mentioned how when she played in Brookline, her family came to watch every game. Obviously, college is away from home, so Michal’s parents attend only one or two a season.
“I wish they were there to watch me, but I know that it is just a different reality now,” said Alge.
One way that parents of athletes could watch games is to live-stream them. Always an advocate for female athletes on the Beren Campus, Michal mentioned that the men’s team has all of its home games live-streamed and she wishes that it can be that way for the women too.
As the captain of the team for a second straight year, Michal is commander of the defense, always talking, getting her hands in the face of a shooter and helping her teammates be the best that they can be on the court. As the athletics liaison for the Student Life Committee as well as a representative on the Student Athletics Committee, Michal shows that her leadership extends off the court as well.
“It’s kind of symbolic,” said Michal of her legacy as a Maccabee. “For the past years we have been doing a lot of losing. I’m 5’6’’ and people said all the time that I am not big enough to succeed. Seeing how the team is winning this year reminds me of the way that I got here, always underrated because of my size. And the legacy I want to leave behind is one of hard work. We are finally winning a little now and we are doing that through hard work.”
Her devotion to hard work turned heads of opposing coaches and players who often comment about Michal’s hustle and rebounding skills.
This author can continue to extrapolate from quotes about Michal’s legacy, but it seems more authentic to hear about it directly from her teammates, coaches and friends.
“Playing with someone like Michal is an honor in itself,” said Brandwein “When you learn how humble she is you really take step back and think ‘wow there really is no other player like her.’ She plays her game and doesn’t talk. She just loves the game and that is a true honor to see.”
“Her effort, passion and love for the game are like no other,” shared Bick. “She is not only an exceptional player but an exceptional human being.”
“One of her teammates told me that they love coming to games just to watch her play, ” said head coach Michael Alon of his athlete of three seasons. “She has such an unbelievable attitude — the only thing greater than her accomplishments is the way she plays. Michal is very soft-spoken off the court but leads by example.”
The story that opened this article is true. The round object that hit her in the face was not a fist, but rather a basketball and mild-mannered Michal’s exclamation had her teammates laughing on the bench. After all, that is sometimes what happens when you work hard and play hard in a game of basketball.
NOTE: All stats come from YUMacs.com. Special thanks to AJ O’Hagen who assisted in research for this article
Photo Caption: YUWBB celebrates Michal Alge (#55) scoring her 1000th point versus The College at Old Westbury
Photo Credit: YU Athletics