W&J Women’s Basketball Prepares For Bahamas Tournament
WASHINGTON, Pa. – The Washington & Jefferson College women’s basketball team will be traveling to the Bahamas to compete in the 2011 Nassau Sunshine Shootout later this week. The Presidents will face Immaculata on December 19 and Goucher on December 20. W&J has never faced either opponent.
The team will depart from Pittsburgh International Airport early in the morning on December 18 and, after a short layover in Atlanta, will arrive in sunny, 80-degree Nassau later that day. The Presidents and their families will spend four days and five nights in the Bahamas, the first visit to the country for all of the players.
The women’s basketball team takes a holiday trip bi-annually using funds raised through working youth camps and its annual alumni golf outing. The team has been to the Bahamas before, in 2007, and the trip allows not only the players, but players’ families as well, to gain a closer bond according to eighth-year Head Coach Jina DeRubbo.
“It’s great for the players and their families to bond on a trip like this. On our last trip to the Bahamas, our families got to know each other better and I think that is an important aspect of a successful program,” said DeRubbo.
While it would be easy for the players and coaches to relax on the beach for four days, the team knows it has work to do while in the Bahamas. The Presidents will enter the tournament having lost three-straight games, sitting at 3-5 overall and 1-3 in Presidents Athletic Conference play.
“For the first two days after we arrive, we want to be focused on basketball,” stated DeRubbo. “I have been preaching to our team that on trips like this, the most focused team usually ends up being the most successful team.”
W&J lost a PAC contest to Westminster 65-49 at the Henry Memorial Center on Saturday. After the Presidents opened the game with five consecutive points, the Titans rattled off a 30-3 run to open up a 22-point lead. W&J cut Westminster’s advantage to as little as nine points on two occasions in the second half, but that is as close as it would get. Senior forwards Ashley Kirkpatrick (Sharon, Pa./Kennedy Catholic) and Courtney Walsh (Mill-Hall, Pa./Central Mountain) paced the Presidents with 10 points a piece. Senior point guard Vanessa Rivera (Reading, Pa./Wilson) added six points, five assists and three steals.
During the game, Rivera passed Regina Dixon ‘99 to move into fifth place on the all-time assist list at W&J with 288 career assists. Rivera ranks second in the conference in assists per game (4.4) and led the PAC last season (5.3). She also is currently leading the league in assist to turnover ratio (1.67) and free throw percentage (.909) and is fifth, averaging 2.6 steals per game. Rivera is 20th in NCAA Division III in free throw shooting and 78th in assists.
W&J will face stiff competition from Immaculata and Goucher during the two-day tournament.
Immaculata leads the Colonial States Athletic Conference with a perfect 4-0 league mark and is 6-3 overall. The Mighty Macs feature three players averaging over 13.0 points per game, led by junior Leah Kuczynski. Kuczynski averages 13.4 points per game and also leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per game, while senior Bridget Welz has added 13.2 points and 3.9 assists per game as well as 32 steals. Immaculata leads the CSAC in scoring offense (78.1 ppg) and is outscoring has outscored its opponents by nearly 17 points per game.
Goucher has lost its last six games entering the tournament. The Gophers are 1-7 overall and 0-1 in the Landmark Conference. Sophomore Charnell Huff paces the team with 10.5 points per game, while senior Kiara Doughty has pulled down 8.1 rebounds per game and chipped in 7.8 points.
The players will have some time to enjoy the beautiful December weather in the Bahamas following the two games. Coach DeRubbo believes it is a good way for her players, many of whom have never been outside of the United States, to grow by learning about a foreign culture. Also, it gives everyone a break from the tiring, daily grind of basketball season, something that can come into full effect during the normally cold, snowy winter months spent in Washington.
“We have some time built in after we play our games for the players to enjoy the Bahamas,” said DeRubbo. “I think an important part of this trip is for the players to experience a different culture and to come together as a team.”
The coaching staff is hoping that the players will return from paradise refreshed from their vacation and that the experience will have an impact on their play later in the season, as they move toward the heart of PAC play.
Said DeRubbo, “As we approach the majority of our conference schedule, we hope we can play well against Goucher and Immaculata to build momentum heading into January.”
The Presidents have enjoyed success following the team’s three previous long distance trips in 2005 (Daytona Beach, Fla.), 2007 (Bahamas) and 2009 (Irvine, Calif.). W&J has earned a bid to the postseason, including the NCAA Division III Tournament appearances in 2007 and 2009, after all of the previous holiday vacation trips. The squad returns home from Nassau on December 22.