For the first time in a long time, cold weather sports were being played in Philadelphia. The Phillies phantastic run to a World Series Title concluded with a parade down Broad Street on Friday, October 31st. Halloween never looked so red before. With the conclusion of the baseball season, other sports now take center stage. At the college level, the big ones are college football, as it prepares for its postseason, and basketball which is just beginning to kick the tires. Here at West Chester University, the Golden Rams Football Team has had a phenomenal season. They currently rake in all the big headlines, good or bad. But as their season approaches its finale, basketball is prepared to keep the campus hot.
The last two seasons have been filled with ups and downs. This one promises to be no different. For the Women’s Basketball team here at West Chester, excitement and disappointment have been synonymous. Two years ago, they shocked the campus and made the playoffs before losing in round one. Last year, they took it a step further, all the way across the state of Pennsylvania before losing in the conference semi-finals. This year, a conference championship is again the goal. And anything short of that will be considered a disappointment.
One eerily similar scenario from last year is that of a fallen superstar. Last year, Katie Kline, the teams predicted leading scorer and rebounder was lost early in the year to an injury. She returned only to suit up one last time on her senior day. This year the team is without one of their two captains, Natalie Winters, who succumbed to a torn ACL and will miss the entire season. While the injury will keep her from playing, her emotional leadership will be unquestioned as she will be there to support her teammates through both the good times and the bad.
“[I will] definitely be a leader on the sideline, be a cheerleader and help out as much as I can at practice,” Winters said.
Part of her leadership responsibilities is to keep the freshman in line. Her advice is the same as last years but it is arguably the most vital cog to a winning team: know the plays. Despite being out this year, Winters collegiate career still has not been completed. She will red shirt and return next season.
Winters still holds the title of co-captain. And with her is good friend and teammate Janelle Garber, a junior center that will be the bulldog on the inside of the Lady Rams attack. Garber will be looked upon to provide leadership both on and off the court. But her biggest role will be to penetrate the defense and rack up the rebounds both offensively and defensively. As the leader, Garber has a message for the entire campus of the purple and gold:
“Win PSAC East and go to the promised land! Let’s go!”
Another returning star is Dana Weems. Entering her final season, she defines the term tough. Last year there were many times when Weems could have sat out with an injury. But she was not going to have any of it. The only time she sat on the bench was when given a breather because she was playing so hard on the court. Her toughness and the numbers she put up led to a well deserved accolade: PSAC East Player of the Year. And Weems could not have received the award had she not believed in herself and had the support of her teammates, primarily because despite her academic year, she was new to the Lady Ram’s game.
“I was like a freshman, I had to start from scratch like everyone else, like all the incoming freshman,” Weems said. “For the people coming in, stay positive.”
Weems’ fellow award winner, reigning PSAC East Rookie of the Year, Megan Stewart, is coming in to her sophomore campaign. That’s scary given the fact she already has shown maturity on the court well beyond her years.
“As a team we have goals and we want to work together as a team,” Stewart said. “We are looking at each step. First to win the PSAC East, then the whole PSAC, and hopefully win the tournament.”
Stewart had a freshman season to remember but so did Mary-Kate Seratelli. MK, as she is commonly referred to, was a “super-sub” last year. She has the size to play inside and the shot to hit the three pointers.
Another key returnee whom the players and coaches saw grow into a big time playmaker last year is Renata Neal. Neal is an uber-athletic player who many think still is yet to reach her full potential. In year three, that true skill may finally be realized.
And who could forget the energetic, always on the go, Bridget Carlin. Carlin is this teams’ energizer bunny. Constantly full of energy, Carlin is the ultimate weapon off the bench. She is able to out jump a taller opponent for a rebound, use her long distance skills to dial up a three pointer, and has no fear of driving to the hole for a tough lay up. Beside her on the court skills, Carlin has been around the block a few times and she is another member of the team who will provide leadership both on and off the court.
A few newbies to keep an eye on this year are Allison Hostetter, Jill Keefer, Shamyra Hammond, and Kayla Felty. The first three are freshman, with Hostetter being the red shirt and the other two true freshmen. Hostetter was around last year watching and observing her teammates work ethic and leadership and she brings a new dynamic to the team. Her playmaking skills are highly touted and the entire team is looking forward to her being an integral part of this squad’s success.
“I saw where they went last year,” Hostetter said. “They had a good run last year and hopefully we can elaborate on [it].”
Hammond and Keefer are also expected to be vital ingredients in what the team hopes will result in a PSAC title.
Felty has a different tale. She is a graduate student who played three years of softball at Villanova and has one more year of eligibility left for NCAA sports. Coach Kane loves some of the qualities Felty brings due to her collegiate level athletic experience and her wisdom from her age.
“Kayla is doing a real nice job of being an older person out there. She talks and encourages, she definitely has great leadership skills having played college sports,” said the Lady Rams head honcho, Deirdre Kane.
Normally one player is previewed as a potential contributor and then goes above and beyond what is asked. The sleeper player this year to keep an eye on could be Dominique Adams. Last year, Adams did not get too much playing time. But with some key departures from last years group and the injury to Winters, Adams could be looked upon to use her Carlin-esque motor to help the team. Coaches and players alike are high on her ability and see her as a future leader.
Kane is also a huge piece to the puzzle. She has been a mother figure to her girls every year and always instills confidence in her players.
“I am real excited,” Kane said. “I think we are real athletic. We are trying to do a couple things differently. [But] I feel that we can compete for the east championship. The highest seed remaining in the east gets to host [the PSAC final four]. When you are hosting, anything can happen.”
With Thanksgiving approaching, the Lady Rams are ready to feast. But they’ll wait for the turkey and stuffing and begin with their opponents. On the campus of the purple and gold, this is their time. It is time to rock. It is time to roll. It is time to ball. Let’s go!
Mike Heiman is a fourth-year student majoring in elementary education with a minor in literacy. He can be reached at MH606613@wcupa.edu.