Women’s Basketball rolls to strong ’15-16 start

At 4-0, the Whitman women’s basketball team has gotten off to their best start since the National finalist team a couple of years ago and have affirmed their Conference title aspirations for this season. Not only are they winning, but they are doing so in convincing fashion, beating their first four opponents by nearly 100 points combined. Even with 8 of the 13 players being underclassmen, Whitman has gotten off to a fast start and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

The first game of the season featured a trip to play Eastern Oregon and began poorly, as Eastern jumped out to a big early lead. A 16-0 run in the second quarter brought Whitman back and gave them their first lead. Whitman would go on to win the game, a huge opening night win against a quality opponent.

Despite the victory, Coach Michelle Ferenz knows they must play much better in order to truly compete later in the season.

“When you look at the stats: too many turnovers, we got out-rebounded, so there are some things there to clean up,” Ferenz said. “We have a long ways to go. Once you sit down and watch the film, there were things we didn’t do very well, but we played hard, we hustled, and that covered up some of our execution errors.”

This level of effort will be needed from everybody all season long as the team attempts to replace their recently-graduated star, Heather Johns.

“Team dynamics have been different. Everyone is stepping up their game and filling in. Heather Johns left, so those are big shoes to fill, but everyone plays a very distinct but important role in filling those shoes,” sophomore guard KC Cook said. “We’re definitely very excited about the win–it was a great team win. We felt a different kind of team chemistry than last year. The win definitely set a tone for the season too, I’m very excited.”

The next game, the home opener against then 0-3 College of Idaho, resulted in a 79-47 victory for Whitman. The game was close throughout the first quarter and College of Idaho stuck around during the second period, but the third quarter saw Whitman outscore their opponents 23-7, which essentially putting the game out of reach for Idaho. Whitman had five players reach double figures, including freshman Maegen Martin who paced the team with 15 points in only 19 minutes.

Photo by Keifer Nace.

Game number three saw Whitman travel to Portland to face then 2-4 Multnomah University. Whitman got off to a 30-10 first quarter lead and kept piling it on, winning by a final score of 83-39. Although they only shot 23 percent on three-pointers, Whitman forced 25 turnovers and once again featured balanced scoring with four in double figures, lead by senior co-captain Hailey McDonald’s 16. Sophomore Casey Poe had a great all-around game, scoring 14 points on 6/10 shooting to go along with game highs in rebounds (8), assists (5), and steals (5).

The fourth game of the season was a matchup of two undefeated teams as Whitman played Warner Pacific College the next day in Portland. Whitman began strongly, but Warner Pacific came back within 4 to end the third quarter. A 16-0 fourth quarter run gave Whitman a solid lead they would never relinquish. Casey Poe had another solid game with 14 points on 6/9 shooting, 5 rebounds, 6 assists to only 2 turnovers, even adding a block and a steal on the defensive end.

Sophomore Emily Rommel, out the last two games with a knee injury, is pleased with what she’s seen out of the team.

“In our games we’ve been sharing the ball really well with good passing. Our energy level overall is high in games, and especially on defense. It is definitely a big part of our identity. We have great ball pressure, which makes it difficult for the other teams to get it inside,” Rommel said.

McDonald shared a similar assessment of the team’s performance so far.

“We’re learning more and more every day [about] where our strong suits are and what works for us, and doing a good job at finding those options in games,” McDonald said.

The team has been awfully impressive early on, out-scoring opponents by an average of 71-47, out-shooting them by over 20 percent (54-33), and out-rebounding opponents 35-27. Whitman was predicted to finish second in the Northwest Conference behind last year’s national runner-up George Fox University. If the early games are any indication, Whitman figures to be near the top of the standings all year long in what figures to be an exciting season.