Missionaries lose players, games

jaygold

Jenele Peterson '11 puts up a shot in Sherwood Center. Peterson was injured in last weekend's Lady Yote Classic. She hopes to return for NWC play Jan. 2. Courtesy of Darrin Lingle
Jenele Peterson '11 puts up a shot in Sherwood Center. Peterson was injured in last weekend's Lady Yote Classic. She hopes to return for NWC play Jan. 2. Courtesy of Darrin Lingle

The Whitman women’s trip to Caldwell, Idaho for the Lady Yote Classic last weekend was discouraging to say the least.   Not only did the Missionaries lose games to host College of Idaho 66-48 and Eastern Oregon University 62-53, but they also lost their only established point guards junior Jenele Peterson and senior Dawna Mello to injuries. Coach Michelle Ferenz was particularly concerned with her team’s poor performance on the road.

“We had a tough weekend. We didn’t shoot well and that really hurt us, especially against College of Idaho. You can’t do that on the road,” Ferenz said.

Since opening the season with a 62-59 home victory over Macalester College the Missionaries have lost three straight games including a 74-64 home defeat at the hands of Lewis-Clark State University on Nov. 21.

Statistics clearly support Ferenz’s suggestion that her team struggled to get the ball in the basket duirng both games. After converting a meager 25.8 percent of its field goal attempts against the College of Idaho, Whitman improved its shooting slightly hitting 32.3 percent from the field against Eastern Oregon. The team crippled its efforts to win by shooting less than 50 percent from the free throw line in both games.

Ferenz rather logically posited that such pronounced offensive inefficiency places excessive pressure on a team’s defense and makes it almost impossible to win, especially on the road. However, she is optimistic that her team will be able to more effectively manufacture points in the future.

“Offensively, we’re a lot better than we showed last weekend,” said Ferenz.

Though the presumption that improved offense by itself will lead to victories is somewhat faulty, the coach believes her team can be more successful as the season rolls on.   In spite of: and, to some extent, because of: the fact that the injuries to Peterson and Mello have left the team shorthanded for the foreseeable future, Ferenz has found encouragement in the way that newer players have performed.

After lauding 2008-2009 All-Northwest Conference (NWC) players senior Hilary White and Peterson for their performances in the team’s two home games and applauding senior Michele Krall’s ability to return from her knee injury as effectively as she has, Ferenz praised first-years Kelly Peterson and Emilie Gilbert for their play filling the void left by Peterson and Mello at point guard.

“A couple of our freshmen [Peterson and Gilbert] stepped in and played well,” said Ferenz.

However, the coach acknowledged that her backcourt’s youth could be a problem and that her team will need to make adjustments, but suggested that the team’s expectations remain high. Last season, after all, the team made the NWC playoffs.

“That would be a good goal for us again,” Ferenz said in reference to that fact.

While the team’s conference standing will ultimately be a matter of considerable importance, conference play will not commence until Jan. 2 when the women travel to Portland to face Lewis and Clark College. Until then, the team will seek to improve against non-conference opponents. This coming weekend, Whitman will travel to California to play against Pomona-Pitzer Colleges and the University of La Verne. These games represent a chance for the team to prove that they can win on the road and avenge their subpar performance in Idaho.

Saturday, Dec. 12, Whitman will look to avenge their earlier loss to Eastern Oregon at home. Ferenz claims that her team will be amped and ready for the rematch and hopes that students will be there lending their support, despite the fact that finals will be steadily approaching.

“It would be great to have a nice crowd,” said Ferenz. “It’s really good therapy to yell and a scream at a basketball game.”