PREVIEW: Lady Quakers return five starters

November 13, 2012

Senior Brianna Peters returns for her final season.

Senior Brianna Peters returns for her final season.

After a year of learning the ropes of the Ohio Athletic Conference, the Wilmington College women’s basketball team is back to put their hard court education to use in 2012-13.

The Lady Quakers return all five starters from a season ago and look to get over the aberration of a losing season. It was only the fourth in head coach Jerry Scheve’s 20 years at Wilmington, and the first since a 12-13 campaign in the 1995-1996 season.

“We return nine players who had multiple starts last year,” said Scheve. “So we should be very experienced. But we were 13-14 last year. So our returners either need to be better, or our freshmen have to be good enough to play right away. And I really feel both of those things are going to happen. Our players didn't come to school here to be on a losing team, and they are not going to let that happen again. I think that attitude started last spring as we prepared to go to China. In fact, after ten days of practice, I thought we were noticeably better than we were at the end of the season. That practice made us better on the court, and that trip brought us all closer together off the court. The freshmen seem to be mixing in very well, and some of them could have a significant impact.”

Wilmington enters this season without a scorer that averaged double-figures, but they have three players that scored at least nine points per game. Senior post Bria Eslick was the team’s second leading scorer (9.2) and the team’s leading rebounder (6.0). Junior wing Makenzie Wipple led the team with 9.6 points per game.

Senior post player Brianna Peters is the other player to average at least nine points, with exactly 9.0 points per game. Senior Shelby Kies and LeAnn Topp return after starting 26 and 27 games, respectively.

“There is going to be a lot of competition,” said Scheve. “We have some tough decisions to make. I don't really think in terms of a starting five. We are going to probably play ten people, and they all have to be able to contribute. There will be some freshmen pushing the upperclassmen for spots. Our depth should be a real strength for us this year.”

Topp, who will serve as captain for the second straight season, is the only player from last season to start all 27 games. She is the most experienced player on the team, playing in 72 career games.

“LeAnn Topp will again be our captain,” said Scheve. “She did a great job in that role last year, and should be even better this year. Leadership is the key to success of any team. Everyone has to be a leader. And the best way to lead is by example, both on and off the court. Great leadership has to begin with your seniors, and I think they are all ready for that challenge.”

Helping in the leadership role will be point guard Kies, who has played in all 53 games the last two seasons. She led the team in assists in 19 of the team’s 27 games, and her 86 dimes are more than twice as many as any other teammate. Kies was the only WC player with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio.

Wippel should step into a full-time starting role on the wing after starting in 14 games last year. Senior Emily Zimmerman (3.9 ppg), junior Haley Howard (2.9 ppg), sophomore Courtney Tucker (1.9 ppg) and sophomore Spencer Robles (2.4 ppg) will all push for minutes in the rotation. Sophomore Jada Brown could also see time after missing all of last season with an injury.

The biggest change to the Wilmington frontcourt is the moving of Eslick from the wing position to the post. Eslick will team with senior Peters to give the Lady Quakers an athletic force inside.

Behind Peters and Eslick, several youngsters will be battling to join the rotation. Sophomore McKenzie Kilburn probably enters camp as the first interior option off the bench. She played in 25 of the 27 games last season, averaging 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in her first collegiate season. Chelsea Meckstroth made five starts, while playing in 21 games last season. The junior post averaged 2.2 points and 2.9 rebounds last year.

The Lady Quakers will not have any breaks in their non-conference schedule as they will immediately jump into the fire. Two of the top teams in the country are on the Wilmington College schedule.

“Our non-conference schedule will certainly prepare us for league play,” said Scheve. “We could play two of the premier Division III teams in the country (Hope College and DePauw University) in the first week of our schedule. We will find out how we stack up right away. Division I Youngstown State will be another highlight of the non-conference schedule.”

Once again there is no breather in the Ohio Athletic Conference slate.

“The OAC figures to be as tough as always,” said Scheve. “Coaching is the big reason for that. There are plenty of Division II and Division I conferences that don't have the coaching that you find in this league. And coaching starts with recruiting, and our coaches are all excellent at that.”