Women's Hoops Looking to Use Experience & Fresh Talent to its Advantage in 2013-14
Heading into the final weekend of the 2012-13 season, the Wesleyan women’s basketball team needed to complete a sweep of Maine rivals Bowdoin and Colby to earn a berth in the NESCAC Championship Tournament. Playing the two games a day later than scheduled due to massive snowfalls, the Cardinals defended their home court, knocking off the Polar Bears and Mules on consecutive days to play their way into the tournament. Despite succumbing to eventual national semifinalist Williams, the successful conclusion to the season demonstrated the growth of a young team with only one senior, and offered a glimpse into the character, toughness and togetherness that will be pivotal to the success and growth of the 2013-14 team.
The resilience and determination the Cards evinced that weekend and will draw on this year begins with the Class of 2014, tri-captains Jenna Klaes (#14, photo lower left), KellyAnn Rooney (#11, photo upper left) and Amber Wessells (#22, right side photo). This trio of guards plays as hard as any group in the league. All three are fierce defenders on and off the ball and are confident floor generals on offense. Wessells and Rooney started every game last year while Klaes missed virtually all of last season with injuries. Her hard work to return to form has shown in her strength and fitness since the players returned to campus to begin classes. Adding her back into the mix gives the Cardinals depth and experience in the backcourt on both ends of the floor.
A talented junior class that saw considerable action last season also will be an important part of Wesleyan’s climb towards the top of the conference. Jess Cherenza, Miller Hartsoe, Driesen Heath and Cherkira Lashley all gained valuable experience last season that both pushed them to improve as individuals and ingrained the team-first style of play necessary for success. Cherenza is Wesleyan’s most versatile defender, with the skills and savvy to guard at least three positions. Hartsoe is a dangerous shooter who has expanded her game, drawing on the outside threat to find lanes to the basket. Heath is a punishing player on the glass and on the drive to the hoop, whose ability to get into the lane is complemented by three-point ability. Lashley is smooth on the offensive end, with the ability to score in a variety of ways.
The class of 2016 features three players who add depth and talent to the program. Jackie Brown is a long-range threat who showed her poise and toughness last season, knocking down big threes and handling the point during Klaes’ absence. Naomi Oyakhilome patrols the glass with determination and has shown clear growth in all facets of her game. Kaylie Williams, a two-sport athlete who will join the team after soccer season concludes, is an athletic defender who can run the floor and finish as well as knock down the outside shot.
The class of 2017 adds depth, size, and talent to the roster and each new student-athlete will have the opportunity to contribute right away. Emma Bentley is a 6-1 post player from Andover High School in Mass. Brenna Diggins is a 6-2 frontcourt player from Norwell, Mass. Lauren Gaj is a small forward from Pawtucket, R.I. Danielle Gervacio is a combo guard from Ossining, N.Y. Each brings a solid basketball background and skillset and hail from successful high school and AAU programs.
As always the highlight of the coming season is the ever-challenging NESCAC schedule that begins in January, but the early season is full of quality opponents as well. The season begins with two games at the Williams Classic, and the first semester slate of games includes a tough home contest versus Vassar College, the Cardinals’ Courtyard By Marriott home tournament, and a second trip to Williamstown for a Little Three contest against the Ephs, the first of four games against longtime Little Three rivals Amherst and Williams, two of which count in the conference standings. With a strong mix of senior leadership and upperclass talent, Wesleyan women’s basketball will head into another challenging season with high expectations and the grit and commitment to achieve them.