The Case Western Reserve University women's basketball team will look to build on a winning campaign last season, when the Spartans take the court in 2017-18.
A Look Back…
Case Western Reserve finished the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 13-12, marking a five-game improvement from the season before. The Spartans' success was fueled by a high-powered offense, which averaged 74.4 points per game, 22nd among all Division III teams. The team's 1,859 points were the most ever by a CWRU team in a 25-game season and the second-most in program history overall, while the team set program single-season records for field goal percentage (.426) and three point field goals made (220), and ranked first in the UAA and 13th in Division III with just 355 turnovers during the year.
CWRU opened their season with 10 wins in their first 13 games, including a victory at the W&J Springhill Suites Tournament and wins on the road in their first two University Athletic Association home games. The Spartans toppled then-10th-ranked Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh to open conference play, and later claimed a victory at home over Chicago, which would finish the year ranked 23rd in Division III and qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Forward Kara Hageman was named to the All-UAA First Team and the All-Great Lakes Region Third Team following the season, while both guard/forward Hillary Hellmann and guard Jess McCoy were selected to the All-UAA second team, as the Spartans finished in sixth-place in the conference with a 5-9 league ledger.
The Spartans will lose just one of their All-UAA players from last year (McCoy) to graduation, entering the 2017-18 season, with both Hageman and Hellmann among the eight returning letterwinners to this year's team. With returning players comprising over 75% of the team's scoring output from last year, 11th-year CWRU Head Coach Jennifer Reimer is looking for her team to continue to improve on defense in order for the group to take another step forward in the upcoming season.
"Our defense is going to be crucial to our success," said Reimer. "It is going to be important that we create scoring opportunities at the defensive end of the floor. We have to improve on our rebounding from last season and take great care of the ball."
Case Western Reserve was selected to finish fifth in the UAA this year in the Coaches' Poll, with Rochester, Chicago, Washington and NYU comprising the top-four teams (in that order) in the conference. Rounding out the coaches' poll were Carnegie Mellon in sixth, Emory in seventh and Brandeis in eighth.
The Returning All-UAA Players
Hageman, a senior, is slated to lead the Spartans' group of returners in 2017-18. The forward set program records for both points in a season (502) and a game during her 41-point effort against Washington University (Mo.) on January 29th. She was also a force defensively, finishing the year with 50 blocks, the third-most in a single season in CWRU history and 57th among DIII players during the campaign.
"Kara Hageman is arguably one of the top-10 players to ever have played at CWRU," said Reimer. "Her engine never stops and her versatility at the offensive end makes her nearly impossible to guard one-on-one. Add to that her incredible leadership ability, and she really is one of the best in Division III."
Returning for her junior year in 2017-18, Hellmann is coming off a season in which she led all Division III players with a 47.4 three-point shooting percentage. Her long range success led to her averaging 17.5 points per game, while setting a program record with 73 made three pointers (demolishing the previous record of 61). Hellmann's 437 points scored last year ranked fourth among CWRU players all time.
"We are excited to see Hillary hit the court this season. She has been very focused at the defensive end of the floor and she understands that she is going to need to work off the dribble as well as continue to shoot from long range," said Reimer. "She has really matured as a player and I would expect some good things from her this year."
A pair of sophomore guards will be looking to continue to grow after impactful freshman campaigns in 2016-17. Alicia Marie Gonzales started all 25 games at point guard for Case Western Reserve as a freshman, finishing second on the team with 2.9 assists per game and adding 3.8 points per contest. Kendall McConico came off the bench in 22 of the team's 25 games, adding 7.1 points per game, the fourth-most on the team, and shooting an impressive 45.7% from the floor.
"Kendall has been a lot of fun to watch work at practice. She is working hard on defense and attacking the rim on offense. Alicia is doing a great job at the point for us as well. She is a strong ball-handler, she is shooting the ball well, and she is doing a great job running the show," said Reimer.
Junior guard Alexis Amburgey played in all 25 games for CWRU last year, starting all but one, while averaging 3.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Other key returners for Case Western Reserve include sophomore guard Marissa Muth, sophomore forward Emma Hock, and junior forward Darby Kreienberg.
Adding to the team's depth will be an eight-player class of first year players, one of the largest in the program's recent history. Looking to make an immediate impact with the Spartans will be forwards Madie Grossman, Rebecca Rowlands, Emma Cain, Elizabeth Jacobs and Megan Shanosky and guards Emily Todd, Jasmine Floyd and Hailey Marshall.
"All our first-year players are working so hard each day," said Reimer. "They have great attitudes and bring skills to our team that we need. Each one of them brings something to the table that is helping us get better each day. It will be exciting to see how they adapt to the college game."
Reimer will be starting her 11th season at the program's helm, and will begin the year tied for the program record for wins by a head coach with 120 during her time as a Spartan. Her record stands at 277-231 overall during her 20-year career as a head coach (good for a .545 winning percentage), including a 120-130 mark at Case Western Reserve. Brooke Orcutt, a three-time All-UAA honoree and 2015 graduate of Case Western Reserve, will join the staff this year as an assistant coach, while Erin Gdaniec, a multiple time All-UAA and All-Region selection and a 2012 graduate of the University, will begin her second year on the staff.
The Spartans schedule should once again rank among the toughest in the country, with seven games scheduled against teams ranked in the top-25 nationally, according to the D3hoops.com preseason poll, and another against a squad which received votes. CWRU will open the season at home against Denison on November 15th, before starting a four-game road swing, which includes a pair of games at the David Wells Classic in Claremont, California, and an early season road test against seventh-ranked Ohio Northern on November 29th. Other non-conference highlights for the Spartans include home games against Wooster on December 2nd and Kenyon on December 8th, a road contest at Baldwin Wallace (which received in the preseason rankings) on December 11th, and a trip to Westerville, Ohio for the Smokey Ballenger Classic on December 29th and 30th.
As always, the Spartans' UAA Schedule is sure to provide challenges, with three teams appearing the in preseason top-25, including 10th-ranked Washington University (Mo.), the 21st-ranked University of Rochester, and the 22nd-ranked University of Chicago. Case Western Reserve will open its conference schedule against Carnegie Mellon University at home on January 6th. The University's annual Throwback Weekend will be held during the team's games against Brandeis University on February 2nd and New York University on February 4th, with those contests scheduled to be played at historic Adelbert Gymnasium.
"We have great momentum from last season and we're looking to build off of that," said Reimer. "It's important that we set goals within the game, and when we hit those goals, the outcome will take care of itself."