2012-13 Women’s Basketball Season Preview
The Washington & Jefferson College women’s basketball team hopes to return to the postseason for the seventh time under ninth-year Head Coach Jina DeRubbo in 2012-13.
During her first six years in Washington, DeRubbo, who is 15 victories shy of 300 for her career, led W&J to four NCAA Division III tournament appearances and two ECAC showings. The Presidents posted a three-win improvement last season from the 2010-11 campaign, but were eliminated in the first round of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference tournament and missed out on a postseason berth for the second-straight season.
Only one of W&J’s top seven scorers returns this winter on a roster filled with talented underclassmen. Senior guard Emily Abraham (Canton, Ohio/Boardman) has played in 70 career games and is the most experienced returnee. Abraham averaged 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game last winter, while collecting 29 steals and dishing out 26 assists. Abraham, who enters her final season with 355 career points and 69 three-pointers, also made nearly 79 percent (26-33) of her free throw attempts. As a team, W&J finished second in the PAC in free-throw shooting (.708).
“Emily has had some great stretches during her career and she’s excited to be the veteran leader of this team,” said DeRubbo. “She brings a great mindset to every practice and game. We just are looking for more consistency from her on the offensive end of the floor.”
Joining Abraham in the Presidents’ backcourt will be a trio of juniors. Alexa Burzese (Sewickley, Pa./Quaker Valley) scored 4.5 points per game and tied Abraham for second on the team with 25 three-pointers, while Kara Seamon (Morgantown, W. Va./University) averaged 3.1 points and totaled 42 assists and 31 steals while playing in all 26 games. Seamon will most likely direct the Presidents’ offense as the starting point guard. Alex Bernardi (East China, Mich./St. Clair) is another scoring threat who has battled injuries during her first two collegiate seasons.
“All three of these players have experience and we are expecting big things from them,” added DeRubbo. “Kara has really embraced the opportunity to be our floor leader during the preseason. She is a good captain and we need her to be confident and steady.”
Sophomore 6-foot-3 center Valerie Dunlap (Hostetter, Pa./Latrobe) showed flashes of dominance in the post during her rookie season and the coaches will look for more consistency during the upcoming season. Dunlap blocked 20 shots, the eighth-highest total in the league, despite averaging only 10.0 minutes per game in 23 contests. She produced a pair of double-doubles and pulled down 4.2 rebounds per game.
“No one put more work in this summer than Valerie and I am really excited to see that hard work pay off for her,” said DeRubbo emphatically. “She got stronger and worked on her offense. Valerie is a great rebounder and her presence on both offense and defense will benefit us greatly.”
Sophomores guard Erin Lavery (Pittsburgh, Pa./Oakland Catholic) and forward Tori Bishop (Pittsburgh, Pa./Upper St. Clair) will provide depth off the bench.
Junior Chelsea Apke (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon) provides the Presidents with another scoring option in the frontcourt. Apke, a second-year transfer from NCAA Division I Presbyterian College, sat out last season because of injury. She shot 40 percent from the field in 18 games during her freshman season with the Blue Hose.
“Chelsea brings a level of athleticism that we haven’t had for a few years,” noted the veteran head coach. “She is quiet, humble and not very flashy, but she will outwork you. She is a fun player to coach and we are excited about what she is going to bring to our program.”
DeRubbo says also the Presidents will be boosted by the six members of the freshman class, including 5-foot-9 Second Team All-State swing player Beka Bellhy. She is the younger sister of Zach and Nate Bellhy from the W&J men’s basketball team.
The Presidents begin the season on Saturday, November 17 in Erie, Pa., at the Penn State-Behrend Tournament. W&J faces SUNY-Fredonia on Saturday at 8:00 pm and will take on the host Lions or Cazenovia on Sunday.
DeRubbo concluded by describing how pleased she has been in the early going, including some positive signs displayed in the team’s first scrimmage with Division II West Liberty. W&J lost five seniors last year who were on the court for nearly 58 percent of the team’s minutes, but the returning upperclasswomen also have plenty of college experience.
“Our players are in a great mindset right now, but there will be a little bit of a learning curve with the addition of Chelsea and the freshmen to the rotation. The more games we play, the better we are going to be once the conference schedule gets underway.”