Nov. 18 – BETHANY, W. Va. – The 2013-14 version of the Bethany College women’s basketball team will look to rebound from a seven win season a year ago, including five in Presidents’ Athletic Conference play. The team will look to replace a few key players and will look to some newcomers for added depth this season.
Possibly the biggest key for the Bison this season is the return of Taylor Verrico (Monaca, Pa./Quigley) after earning Honorable Mention All-PAC last year. Verrico ranked seventh in the PAC in points per game (13.8), which was the highest point per game total by a Bethany player in seven seasons.
“Taylor was a game changer for us last year,” remarked Head Coach Rebecca Upton. “She always found a way to be productive on every level, whether that was scoring, distributing for others, or playing solid defense.
“We are glad to have her back this season and we expect her leadership both on and off the floor to be an important part of the team.”
Along with Verrico in the backcourt, Coach Upton will see the return of two other athletes that played big minutes for the Bison last season in senior Skylar Williams (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) and sophomore Mikyla Tipton (Wellsville, Ohio/Wellsville).
Williams returns to the floor after appearing in all 26 games a year ago. As the primary point guard last season, Williams averaged 3.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest for the Green & White. She also lead the team in both assists (80) and steals (52).
“Skylar will be handling the primary point guard responsibilities for the third year in a row and she is handling the tempo of the game extremely well,” remarked Upton. “Her defensive prowess as well as her ability to run an offense is a great asset for us, but we will look to try to get her more involved in the scoring aspect of the offense this year.”
Also returning to the backcourt this year is Tipton who also appeared in all 26 games, primarily as a reserve player as a freshman. Tipton ranked third on the team in points per game and averaged 7.7 points per contests while shooting 47% against conference opponents last year.
“Tipton is coming off a very successful year and a great offseason,” said Upton of her sophomore guard. “Her athleticism can really provide a lot of opportunities for her this year and she has an uncanny ability to turn defense into offense.”
Other players that will see some time in the backcourt this season include junior R.E.L Neal (Detroit, Mich./Melvindale) sophomore Kristen Black (Follansbee, W. Va./Brooke) and freshmen Alexis Naples (Salem, Ohio/South Range) and Lauren Simpson (Washington, Pa./Trinity).
“For us this season, consistency in our backcourt is going to be one of the biggest keys,” said Upton of her guard play. “Last season we were never sure of what we would get out of our guards as it would be different from game to game, and sometimes even from half to half. What we want this year is to be more consistent in our execution both on the offensive side as well as defensively."
In the frontcourt this season the Bison will look to junior Monica Westerheide (Zanesville, Ohio/Bishop Rosecran) and sophomore Sami Schott (Caldwell, Ohio/Shenandoah) to lead a young group of forwards.
Westerheide is perhaps the most experienced of the group as she appeared in 22 games last season and averaged 4.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
“Monica can make some great plays for us on the offensive side of the ball,” commented Upton. “She has great agility for a post player and has the ability to extend the floor and make some solid plays for us this year.”
Joining Westerheide is Schott, who, as a freshman, appeared in 19 games on the year last season. During the 2012-13 campaign, Schott played the three and four position and averaged 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds per contest.
“Sami is an extremely smart player out there on the floor,” remarked Upton of her sophomore. “She is constantly thinking ahead of the play and she is very crafty on offense. She will make a great swing post for us this year.”
Freshman Shelva Burns (Weirton W, Va./Weir) is expected to log some big minutes for the Bison this season. A four-year player for Weir High School and an OVAC All-Star, Burns is someone that coach Upton is hoping will make a big impact.
“Shelva has a lot of potential playing in the frontcourt for us,” remarked Upton. “She is extremely athletic and hits the boards very well.
“We have been working more with her face-up game in the offseason, which is going to allow her to become more productive on the offensive end of the floor.”
Other forwards that could see the floor this season include sophomores Carolena Gasbarro (Hickory, Pa./Fort Cherry) Christina Schamp (Morgantown, W. Va./Morgantown) and Gabrielle Naples (Salem, Ohio/South Range) as well as freshmen Carly Grady (Keyser, W. Va./Keysey) and Stacy Potter (Inwood, W. Va./Mussleman).
“The biggest key for the forwards this season is that we need to be better on the defensive side of the ball,” said Coach Upton of her frontcourt. “This season, there are a lot of talented post players out there and defense has to be our top priority. We need to defend the ball better and rebound better than we were able to last season, and I believe this group is capable of doing that.”
The Bison will open their 2013-14 campaign on the road at Marietta on November 19 at 7:30 p.m. The team will then return to Hummel Field House for their first home contest on Saturday, November 23 when they take on Penn State – Beaver at 2 p.m.
“This season has to be a year of growth and improvement,” said Upton of the upcoming campaign. “No one is satisfied with what we did last year and we want to make sure that we are continuously improving our game to get to the level of basketball that we want to play.”