Women’s basketball vies for top NWC ranking

Tyler Hurlburt

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Photo Credit: David Jacobson

After a season plagued by injuries, the women’s basketball team looks to capitalize on its newfound depth and added talent.

Last year season-ending injuries for starters seniors Jenele Peterson and Anna Forge, along with other non-season ending injuries, forced an already small bench to step up and play hard. Despite the injuries the Missionaries were able to end the season with a 7-9 record in the Northwest Conference, placing fifth.

Head coach Michelle Ferenz is ready to move on from last season, accepting that the injuries of last year were atypical.

“Injuries, illness, all of that is part of the season,” Ferenz said. “What happened to us was unusual, but injuries happen.”

This year’s team is turning heads and making it known that they are looking to move up in the conference. A preseason coach’s poll put Whitman in third, behind Lewis & Clark and defending champions George Fox.

Living up to their preseason ranking, Whitman won the WHIT Classic women’s basketball tournament in Spokane on November 19 and 20. The Missionaries were the only undefeated team at the tournament, beating Northwest University 70-69 and UC-Santa Cruz 69-50.

This season, the addition of six new faces to the seven returners from last year serves as a greatly needed boost to the team’s depth.

“We have way more players,” Peterson said. “There is so much more depth; we can actually run a full practice.”

While the major challenge of last year was dealing with injuries, this year the team must focus on incorporating all the newcomers into the team.

“Our challenge is coming together,” Ferenz said. “We’re pretty specific about what we run, so there is a learning curve.”

Whitman is not simply content with their third place preseason ranking; the team wants to compete for first. To accomplish this, they are going to rely on the added depth of the team to supplement that talent that has been there.

“We have the capabilities to [win the conference],” Ferenz said. “We have the raw tools. You have to have depth.”

Whitman has an early challenge to these aspirations in Lewis & Clark, whom the Missionaries play in their second conference game on December 4 in Portland. The Pioneers finished forth last year in the NWC and were ranked second in the preseason poll.

“We are going to compete for conference against Lewis & Clark,” Peterson said.

Whitman opens conference play against Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. on Friday Dec. 3, followed the next day with their game against Lewis & Clark. The first home games of the season come on December 11 and 12 at the Kim Evanger Raney Classic.

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