Women’s Basketball Leaves Strong Legacy

Mitchell Smith

The 2013-2014 Whitman College women’s basketball team will go down as the most successful basketball team ever to don the maize and blue. The Missionaries boasted an undefeated regular season, hosted a sectional and a regional game in the NCAA Tournament and finished second in the country after a loss in the national championship game to Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham.

They set the school record for wins with 31 and had the first two Division III All-Americans in the school’s history in junior guard Heather Johns and senior forward Sarah Anderegg. Johns won the Elite 89 award for being the best scholar-athlete to reach the Final Four. Anderegg will also go down as the third-highest scorer in the history of the school. The Pioneer has broken the historic year down into four parts, featuring quotes from Johns, Head Coach Michelle Ferenz, first-year guard Alysse Ketner and senior forward Meghan White

Part 1: Regular Season

The Missionaries were able to live up to lofty expectations after an Elite Eight Finish in 2012-2013, defeating every regular-season opponent they faced. Before the Northwest Conference playoffs began, the team’s record stood at 25-0, highlighted by sweeps of both Whitworth and George Fox (both of which were ranked nationally throughout the season) and a win in the team’s first game over St. Thomas, then ranked number five. 

Michelle Ferenz: “We played very well before Christmas, beat some very good teams. We struggled a little bit in a few games after break and got a little bit of a wake-up call about making sure we brought our best effort and staying focused.”

Heather Johns: “Even when we had an off day, we still found a way to pull through and get the win. It gave me a lot of confidence that even when we weren’t at our best, we were still mature enough to pull through and win.”

Alysse Ketner: “Our motto was ‘win the day.’ Every day, whether it was practice or a game or an off day, we focused on whatever we had to do to get better for that day.”

MF: “By the end of the season, this group knew how to win. They won a lot of games on the road, they’d come from behind, won with big leads. They had won a lot of different ways with a lot of different weapons.”

Part 2: Conference Tournament

The Missionaries continued their perfect season in the first game of the conference tournament before running into rival Whitworth in the conference championship. The final was 68-65, Whitworth.

MF: “Honestly, they just played very well. We played pretty well. They made every free throw and we didn’t.”

Meghan White: “I personally was in foul trouble, so it was frustrating for me because I had to watch most of the game from the sidelines. They made a lot of great shots and defended us well.”

HJ: “If we were going to lose a game, that was a good game to lose. It fueled the fire to stall any complacency that might have gotten into us in the regular season.”

MW: “When I came to shoot the next day, I was really motivated. I wanted to show them who really deserved that win. It helped us focus and helped us have this run to the Final Four and this run to the national championship game.”

Part 3: NCAA tournament

The NCAA Tournament was a dream come true for the Missionaries. Not only did the team make the Final Four, they hosted a sectional and a regional, keeping them in Walla Walla for the first two weekends of the tournament. In their third game of the tournament they were able to avenge their Northwest Conference final loss to Whitworth, defeating the Pirates 73-67. After advancing past these weekends, the team traveled to Stevens Point, Wis. for the Final Four. After defeating Wisconsin-Whitewater, the Missionaries lost in the national championship to FDU-Florham, 80-72.

MW: “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to go to the Final Four. We got to take a charter plane all the way to Stevens Point, and we show up and we’re treated like we’re professional athletes or celebrities.”

MF: “The Whitewater game was huge. It was so fun. We had probably over 100 people there. Every vice president on campus was there, President Bridges was there, even some community members were there.”

MW: “[The national championship] was a well-fought game. We didn’t get the result we wanted. It was a really dramatic game. I knew it was my last game as a Whitman missionary, having Whitman on my chest. I wasn’t disappointed with how we played, I was just sad that my career was over with the team that I loved.”

Part 4: The Legacy

With all the success the team enjoyed this year, what will be remembered of this group of student athletes?

MW: “We know how to have fun and really enjoy the game. As seniors, we taught that to our younger teammates. For me, it’s that if you work hard, you can accomplish anything. Whitman basketball for life!”

HJ: “There’s no way you can’t say this season was successful. I don’t want to say we surpassed our expectations, but we kind of did.”

MF: “Now this team knows what it takes. Every season is different, every challenge is different. They won’t all be All-Americans. But they got to play in a national championship. We finished number two in both polls. They made history. And they did it together. They will go down as the best team in Whitman College history. And that’s something you can hang your hat on.”