WC ready to put losing season in rear view

First non-winning season since 1995-96

November 15, 2012

Junior Makenzie Wippel led the team in scoring last season. (John Swartzel photo)

Junior Makenzie Wippel led the team in scoring last season. (John Swartzel photo)

WILMINGTON – The first step to proving last season’s losing season was an aberration is upon the Wilmington College Lady Quakers. It was the first time since the 1995-96 season that WC didn’t post at least a .500 record. (Game Notes)

“I’m happy with our progress,” said head coach Jerry Scheve. “We have a lot of returners that have played a lot of basketball for us. I don’t think anyone is pleased with our past. We have worked hard to get better, and I think that is going to play off.”

The Lady Quakers are hosting the Hampton Inn/Damon’s Tip-Off tournament starting 6 p.m. Friday against Bethany, which is followed by an 8 p.m. match-up between perennial national power Hope and Denison.

Wilmington features four players that made at least 22 starts last season, including senior guard LeAnn Topp – who started all 27. Junior Makenzie Wippel should join the starting lineup this week after starting 14 in 2011-12.

Head coach Jerry Scheve is also pleased with this depth and especially his group of newcomers.

“It’s a really good group,” said Scheve. “They are an intelligent group that has picked up things quickly. Traditionally, we play 10 players and that shouldn’t change this year.”

Coming off its best season since 2003, the Bethany Bison are faced with trying to improve on its 17-win season with a bunch of youngsters. The only starter back is senior Kayla Taormina, who was named Honorable Mention All-PAC last year after leading the team with 11.7 points per game.

Two other seniors return in forward Carly Garneau, who missed 12 games due to injury last year, and guard Rebecca Braithwaite. Other key returners include junior point guard Skylar Williams, who played in all 29 games and averaged 3.9 points and 2.8 rebounds, and junior guard Taylor Verrico, who averaged 4.6 points in 29 games played a season ago.

Scheve expects the Bison to play an up-tempo pace and really attack one of Wilmington’s weaknesses from last season – taking care of the ball.

“It was a point of emphasis all year,” Scheve said of taking care of the basketball. “We were very sloppy with the ball last year. We welcome the challenge.”

The Big Red is just one season removed from an unbeaten regular season and a 28-1 record. They bring a three-season streak of winning at least 20 games. Denison has appeared in two of the last three NCAA tournaments, losing to the eventual National runner-up in both seasons.

Denison returns 12 letter winners, including three starters, from last year’s team that finished second in the NCAC. The Big Red strung together an eight-game winning streak to close out the regular season and advanced to the NCAC Tournament title game for the third-straight season.

Leading the DU charge this season will be senior point guard and two-time first-team All-NCAC selection, Serafina Nuzzo. Last year, Nuzzo started all 28 games and averaged a team-best 12.7 points per game. She co-led the league with 2.3 steals a contest and led the Big Red in assists (82).

“We scrimmaged them a year ago and they have most of their players back,” said Scheve. “They are a very good team with a lot of veterans back. They do a variety of different things.”

Hope is coming off a 22-5 season but it wasn’t enough to keep the Flying Dutch from having their string of six straight NCAA tournament appearances come to an end. During their six-year run, Hope won one National Title (2005-06) and finished as the National runner-up once (2009-10). Over the past seven seasons, they have averaged 28 victories.

A blend of returning veterans, players new to the program and returnees hoping to overcome injury should put the 2012-13 Flying Dutch right in the thick of the conference race. The pre-season roster of 16 players includes 10 returning letterwinners, two who are products of the junior varsity program, two freshmen and two players sidelined by injury in 2011-12.

“They are perennial a top two, three team in the country,” said Scheve. “They are loaded with talent. Their strength is their size, inside and outside. They are a huge team. They play defense better than any team I’ve seen in a while.”