Balanced scoring, consistent team play leads to strong start for women’s hoops


Photo by Anna Dawson.

While the rest of Whitman’s student body was enjoying their month off, the Women’s Basketball team was racking up wins while traveling all around the country. They finished the break 5-1 overall (3-1 in Conference), pushing their record to 12-2 (5-1).

After a brief week of relaxing and spending time with family, the players returned to campus right after Christmas for a couple days of practice before flying to Nashville to play #16 Williams and Penn State Behrend in the Music City Classic. They won both games, beating Williams by 14 points and Penn State Behrend by 22.

“I’ve heard we’ve always lost to [Williams] in the past, so beating them was a big accomplishment. It was a great trip,” sophomore Casey Poe said.

Coach Michelle Ferenz echoed those sentiments.

“[We] played pretty well, especially coming off the break. Winning on the road is always nice.”

Poe was named Northwest Conference Player of the Week for her performance in Nashville where she had 23 points, five rebounds and seven assists against Williams, and followed that up with 15 points, three rebounds and four assists the next day.

The team then returned to Whitman before playing at Whitworth and then at Pacific, winning both games. The Whitworth game was close, with Whitman needing a fourth quarter push to overcome a third quarter deficit, eventually winning by three. The Pacific game was a little different, as Whitman was ahead most of the game and kept stretching the lead in the second half, resulting in a 66-45 final score.

“Emily [Rommel] was our leading scorer up at Whitworth, Alysse [Ketner] had a nice game at Pacific, that’s kind of how we are. We’re pretty balanced,” Ferenz said. “We don’t have that one person who’s going to average 20 points a game. We have a lot of players averaging between seven and 11 points”.

The team’s winter break ended with a trip to Oregon to play at George Fox and Willamette. Whitman suffered a tough loss to begin the weekend against undefeated George Fox before mounting another second half comeback to defeat Willamette in their home gym.

“The loss to George Fox was rough. We definitely could have won that game. I’m glad we get to play them again. It’s always nice to be able to play at home against a really good team,” sophomore Kendra Winchester said.

Now back after the tough travel schedule, Coach Ferenz reflected on the last few weeks.

“Four road trips in about three weeks. It’s been pretty grueling to be honest. It was nice that it fell into a time where players weren’t missing classes,” she said.

When they weren’t flying or driving around the nation, the players were pushing each other on the court and having fun together off of it.

“Practices went well. We played hard against each other. Some days were lackadaisical but the captains enforced pushing each other and playing together,” Poe said. “All the underclassmen were in Prentiss. We watched movies and had team dinners at Hailey McDonald’s house.”

Winchester also enjoyed the team camaraderie that was bolstered over the break.

“Being with the team over break is honestly the most fun part of the season because all we do is play basketball, eat, sleep and [the underclassmen] all live together. It’s when we get the closest, a lot of team bonding goes on,” she said.

The team is looking forward to the rest of the season and hopes to continue into the playoffs.

“[Winter break] went well, I’m really happy. We just need to win out in the second half and then we’ll be fine for playoffs,” Winchester said. “[Health] was a little bit of an issue at the beginning of the year, but we’re about as healthy as we’ve been. Everyone’s suiting up and ready to go,” Ferenz added.

Despite only a 1-1 weekend right after break, the team is in a good position to make a late season push. With the team healthy and playing well, Whitman should make the NWC Playoffs and have as good of a shot as anybody to beat powerhouse George Fox and make the NCAA Division III Tournament.

The Missionaries will play Whitworth University in their next home game on Feb. 2, and face George Fox in their last home game of the season, which is also senior night, on Feb. 13.