The College of Wooster women's basketball team will look to continue an upward trajectory for the 2018-19 season with an experienced roster and some capable newcomers.
|Kyle Croxton is one of two seniors on this year's roster. She will provide a 3-point presence.|
Last season the women doubled their win total at 6-20 overall and a 4-12 record in the North Coast Athletic Conference. They defeated Ohio Wesleyan and Allegheny twice and picked up non-conference wins against Geneva and Alma.
Head coach Lisa Panepento expects to keep that momentum heading into the 2018-19 season. Eleven players return, and 10 of those 11 played in 20 or more games.
The starting five to close the year returns as does more than 80 percent of the total scoring.
"Every single group of them, they've continued to show development and what it takes to be competitive," Panepento said. "I would hope we just continue that upward climb."
With the experience coming back and the upside the women have shown in the offseason, it has allowed Panepento to reach further down into her coaching bag.
"I am changing some things up," she said. "I think in the last year or two I was playing conservatively. I didn't try to do a lot of different things because I felt like it was more important to do one or two things well.
"I had to force myself out of that comfort zone as a coach and say, 'We're going to try different things, experiment and see what we're capable of.'"
The Scots have a smaller roster than in years' past but Panepento believes more can contribute. With the depth and the current athleticism, one can expect an up-tempo approach.
Described as a "tremendous defensive player" from Panepento, Sarah Rapacz was in the top five of the NCAC last year in blocked shots (1.2 bpg) as a freshman. She started the second most games (23) and averaged 4.9 ppg and 4.4 rpg. Rapacz played more of the four-position last year but could see more time as a five this year. In her final two regular season games she posted her first two double figure games in scoring including a career-high 15 against Kenyon College on Feb. 14.
Starting in half of the games last year, Maria Janasko was the team's leading rebounder and second leading scorer averaging 6.4 ppg and 5.0 rpg. Her lone double-double last year was a 10-point, 11-rebound effort against Denison on Dec. 16. She started the first 11 games and the final two. The six-footer should make a formidable duo with Rapacz. She runs the floor well and should be an even better rebounder as a sophomore.
Junior Aubri McKoy missed almost all of her freshman season with an injury and got back into the motions last year appearing in 22 games, averaging 2.4 ppg and 2.9 rpg. Panepento notes a strong offseason has gotten McKoy into great shape, and she should see significant time in the four spot.
Sarah Marion appeared in 23 games as a freshman and returns to contribute in the frontcourt.
Panepento recognizes the sophomore as someone who can do a lot of things well and someone capable of scoring from anywhere on the court. Marion averaged 3.1 ppg and 3.1 rpg last year.
Austrella Balley will be another contributing post player. She appeared in just nine games as a freshman and learned a lot about playing at the Division III level. Panepento says she has a come a long way and has shown "an incredible amount of improvement since last year."
Abby Johnson is the lone newcomer in the front court. However, the six-footer has been limited with injuries and didn't play her senior year of high school at Mt. Notre Dame in Cincinnati, Ohio. Once she gets back into the flow of playing basketball, Panepento says she has a lot of potential.
Senior Anna Gibbs will return to lead the team. A two-time all-conference honoree, Gibbs led Wooster in points (11.2), assists (3.6) and steals (1.5) and finished last year as one of two players in the NCAC to rank in the top-10 in the three categories.
Gibbs has started every game in her career as a Fighting Scot and is on pace to finish in the top-10 all-time for scoring at the school.
"Gibbs has emerged as a tremendous leader," Panepento said. "I think last year she really figured out what it takes to be a true leader, and she's carrying that on."
Junior Akwia Tilton continued to show improvement as she started 24 of 25 games. Tilton averaged 5.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg and 1.2 steals per game.
The junior recorded five double-figure scoring games last year including a 14-point, 7-rebound game at Kenyon on Jan. 17.
Known for her athleticism, Tilton fits the up-tempo style Panepento likes to implement. Tilton also participates on the track and field team where she has accumulated All-NCAC honors.
Junior Cat Fiorito is a utility player who Panepento sees playing a number of positions. Fiorito appeared in all 26 games last year and started 13 of the final 14 games. She finished with 2.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg and 1.2 apg. She was third on the team with 27 steals. More of a pass-first player, Fiorito still shot 37 percent from the floor last year.
Kyle Croxton is the other senior on the team, who appeared in 25 games last season. Croxton averaged 4.8 ppg and was third on the team in 3-point percentage at 27 percent (20-of-74). She also went 25-of-30 from the foul line a year ago. Croxton is one of the prime two guards and will be a primary scoring option.
Junior Kylie Orr is a threat who can score from anywhere. She finished third on the team with 6.3 ppg and led the team in shooting at 35 percent (29-of-84) from beyond the arc and 84 percent from the charity stripe (21-of-25). In conference play, she bumped her scoring average up to 7.6 ppg. Six of her eight games where she scored in double figures came against NCAC opponents, including a season-high 16 against DePauw on Jan. 27.
The final returnee is Jena Copley, who averaged nine minutes in 22 games last year as a freshman. Panepento noted improvement in her basketball skills and in her confidence level in the offseason and sees Copley as someone who can play the three spot. Copley runs the floor well and gets the hustle points for the team.
Backcourt newcomers include Jenna Stanton, London Foster, A'Janay Nicholson and Masani Francis. Stanton is an intelligent shooter who will compete for time at the two-spot, while Foster will look to back up Gibbs at point. Panepento described Nicholson as a scrapper, and Francis has been limited with injuries, but they all will have opportunities.
Wooster opens the year at Kenyon on Nov. 14 and will host Finlandia University and Franklin College for the 2018 Nan Nichols Classic from Nov. 17-18.