2019-20 CWRU Women’s Basketball Season Preview

2019-20 CWRU Women’s Basketball Season Preview

The Case Western Reserve University women's basketball team will look to embark on a new era, when the team opens up play for its 2019-20 season this weekend.

OVERVIEW
The Spartans are coming off one of the best seasons in the program's history, finishing the 2018-19 campaign with a 15-10 overall record, the team's highest win total since the 2011-12 season and the second-highest mark in program history.  It was an 11-win improvement over the previous season, the seventh-best jump in victories during the campaign among all NCAA Division III teams.  CWRU went 7-7 in the always competitive University Athletic Association, placing fourth overall in the conference.

This year's squad will have a different look to it, following the graduation of Kara Hageman and Hillary Hellmann, who were both named to the All-UAA First Team last year.  However, with eight returning players, including three with starting experience and five who were among the team's top-seven scorers last year, 13th-year Head Coach Jennifer Reimer has hopes that the team will rise to the occasion.

"We bring a balanced attack with our offense this year," said Reimer.  "Our aggressive half-court defense will allow us manufacture points at the offensive end as well.  When you graduate two players the caliber of Hageman and Hellmann, it's nearly impossible to replace immediately.  We'll get contributions from each position on the floor, and many of our young players are ready to step into a scoring role."

THE TEAM
Leading the way for Reimer and the Spartans are the team's two seniors, guards Alicia Marie Gonzales and Kendall McConico.  Gonzales is now in her fourth season as the Spartans' starting point guard, providing key experience as the team's floor general.  She started all 25 games for CWRU in 2018-19, averaging 3.4 assists, while shooting 43.5% overall from the floor and 40.0% on three-point attempts.

"Alicia is just so steady as a leader and point guard," said Reimer.  "She understands the work that goes into being a great player and she knows the sacrifice necessary to be successful as a team.  She leads through words and action.  She has worked very hard to become a consistent scorer from the perimeter for us, and she is one of the most team-oriented and reliable people I have ever coached.  She's an amazing person, and a great captain and point guard."

Meanwhile, McConico is one of the most versatile threats on the floor for the Spartans, and can create points with both her shot and ability to drive to the hoop.  Last year, she averaged 7.2 points per game on 41.8% shooting overall, while adding 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

"Kendall is feeling healthy as she heads into her senior year," said Reimer.  "She's a smart, dynamic player who will really give defenses fits with her versatility.  We're looking for her to help us set the tone on defense and set the pace as we push on offense."

Another key returner for the team is junior forward Emma Cain, who emerged as a threat in the post for the Spartans last year after stepping into a starting role for the final 16 games of the season.  She led the team with a 49.6% mark from the floor, while scoring 6.9 points and collecting 3.7 rebounds per game, in addition to 1.1 steals per contest.  In her 16 starts, her productivity rose to 8.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 55.4% from the floor.

"Without question, Emma was one of our most-improved players last season," said Reimer.  "The leap she made in her sophomore year was awesome.  We'll need her to continue that momentum on the court while stepping into her new role as one of our captains.  She has shown herself to be a wonderful leader who takes great care of her teammates--that leadership on and off the floor will be crucial to our success."

Two of the team's top returning scorers come from the sophomore class in guard/ forward Abbey Lawrence and guard Alyssa Hyland, who each appeared in all 25 of the team's games as the first two players off the bench during their first year of collegiate competition.  Lawrence was third on the team with 8.0 points per contest, while Hyland chipped in 6.4 points per game in 2018-19.

"Hyland and Lawrence will play a big role for us this season," said Reimer.  "They have put in a ton of work in the off-season and we're excited to see it pay off this winter."

Other returners in the Spartans' sophomore class looking to see extended time in the rotation this year include guard/ forward Alexa Hsia, and forwards Olivia Perkins and Alexis John.

Meanwhile, adding to the deep pool of talent on the team will be seven new additions, including six first-year players and a graduate transfer.

"Many of our first-year players will have the opportunity to contribute, as well as many of our returning sophomores who were working hard in practice last year," said Reimer.  "Isabella Mills won a state title with her high school team last year as part of an undefeated season for her squad, and she has the ability to make a splash early.  She still has a lot to learn as a first-year player, but she and all of her classmates have been incredibly coachable and eager to work on new concepts to help us be the best we can be."

Along with Mills, a guard/forward combo, first-year players include guards Claire Poulton, McKenna Gross, and Isabella Ceseretti, guard/ forward Savannah Glimpse, and forward Megan FridayMelissa Heath, a 6-foot-2 graduate student forward who played the first three years of her career at Brown University, will also aim to make an impact on the Spartans' roster this season.

"This season we have an exciting, enthusiastic group working incredibly hard in practice," said Reimer.  "Our seniors provide a wealth of experience and our captains have done a wonderful job bringing this young group along.  We will work hard and compete with each team on our schedule.  We will grow by leaps and bounds this year."

THE COACHES
Reimer will enter the 2019-20 season with a milestone close at hand.  She is currently just four wins shy of 300 for her career with a 296-261 overall record over her 22 years as a head coach, good for a .531 winning percentage.  Included in her overall win tally are 139 victories during her previous 12 years at CWRU.

Reimer will be joined by Assistant Coach Kelly Muffley, who is in her second year with the team.  In addition, two of Reimer's standout former players – Erin Gdaniec and Kara Hageman – will serve as assistant coaches this year as well.

THE SCHEDULE

Case Western Reserve will open its 2019-20 season this Saturday, November 9th at Albion College in Albion, Michigan at 3:00 p.m.  The Britons are coming off an 18-8 record last year and were third in the MIAA during the regular season, before bowing out in the first round of the conference championship tournament.  Links for video and live stats for the game will be posted to the CWRU women's basketball schedule page at https://athletics.case.edu/sports/wbkb/2019-20/schedule when they are made available.

The Albion game will be part of a four-game stretch away from home to start the season, which includes a game at Kenyon next Tuesday night and the Springhill Suites Tip-Off Tournament at Washington and Jefferson College on November 15th and 16th, where the Spartans will face the host Presidents, along with Otterbein College.  CWRU will play its first home game on Tuesday, November 19th against Waynesburg, before heading to Alliance, Ohio for the Mount Union Tournament.  CWRU will wrap-up their first month of play at John Carroll, which received votes in the D3hoops.com Preseason Top-25.

Three more non-conference home games await the Spartans, as the team will host Denison on December 7th, Wooster on December 20th and Chatham on January 2nd, before opening UAA play on January 11th at home against Carnegie Mellon.  CWRU will conclude its season long six-game home stand against #24 Washington on January 17th and #18 Chicago on January 19th, before hitting the road for conference games at Rochester (Jan. 24), Emory (Jan. 26), Brandeis (Jan. 31) and NYU (Feb. 2).

The weekend of February 7-9 will be the annual Throwback Weekend for the Spartans, who will host Brandeis on Friday night and NYU on Sunday afternoon at Historic Adelbert Gymnasium. 

After Throwback Weekend, the Spartans will make the return trip to Washington and Chicago, before hosting Rochester and Emory on February 21st and 23rd for the team's final home games of the season.  CWRU is slated to conclude its campaign against Carnegie Mellon on February 29th.

Should all go well, Reimer hopes the team's hard work and raw talent will lead to a quick maturation, and success for the upcoming season.

"We'll play an up-tempo, aggressive brand of basketball at both ends of the floor," said Reimer.  "We will need contributions in practice and games from every person on the roster – look for our young players to grow up fast.  This really is such a great group of women this year.  They love to compete, they love the game, they are unselfish and hard-working.  Their energy is contagious, and that energy, combined with their talent, will mean great things for this season and for the years to come."