NewsLady Cougars Wrap up Challenging Hoops Season
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Featuring a starting lineup that consisted of one junior, two sophomores, and two freshmen, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University women’s basketball team gained valuable experience as the Lady Cougars posted a 7-20 overall mark during a challenging 2004-2005 season.
The year got off to a good start as MVNU posted a 69-36 non-conference victory at Ohio State University-Newark. Following a pair of losses at the Union (Ky.) College Classic, the Lady Cougars downed Concordia (Mich.) University 68-54 in the team’s home opener. MVNU also split its next two games with a loss at Geneva (Pa.) College and a 101-49 victory over Ohio State-Newark to stand at 3-3.
At that point, the Lady Cougars began the rugged American Mideast Conference South Division portion of their schedule. The team dropped its first six conference games before pulling out an 85-75 victory at Tiffin University that snapped a 20-game conference road losing streak that dated back to 2002.
MVNU continued to play well in its next game at perennial NAIA Division II power Shawnee State University as the Lady Cougars took the game to overtime before falling 99-94. The loss started the team on another six-game losing skid as MVNU stood at 5-17 overall and 1-12 in the AMC South Division.
However, the Lady Cougars rebounded with their best game of the year as MVNU used a 36-6 bench scoring advantage to shock Shawnee State 82-81 on a three-pointer by senior forward Jenny Morris with 1.5 seconds left in the game. The Lady Cougars followed that performance up with a 72-70 win over Tiffin to sweep the season series as MVNU rallied from a 14-point deficit in that game.
Despite dropping their final three games of the season including a tough overtime loss at Ohio Dominican University, the Lady Cougars had proved that they could play with even the top teams in the highly competitive AMC South Division as the team finished the season playing at a much improved level.
"Once again, the conference was very strong as three or four teams consistently stayed in the NAIA Division II Top 25 most of the season with Cedarville finishing the year as the top-ranked team in the nation,” said MVNU head coach Steve Gregory. "We knew that once we hit our conference schedule that things would not be easy. We had plenty of highs and lows throughout the year with highlights coming in the sweep of Tiffin and the series split with perennial power Shawnee State.”
"I thought our group of kids hung together and worked hard every day in practice,” Gregory added. "That’s not always easy when you are not enjoying the fruits of your labor in the victory column.”
MVNU had just two freshmen on its roster, but both Amy Sebastian and Madisyn Helton emerged as key players for the Lady Cougars in their first collegiate season. Sebastian, a wing, finished the year as the team’s leading scorer at 13.5 points per game to go with a team-high 60 steals as she started all 27 games. She also registered 61 assists and nailed 23 three-pointers as she was named to the AMC South Division All-Freshmen Team and the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region team as well as earning AMC South Division Honorable Mention. Helton added 7.6 points and tied for the team-high with 6.6 rebounds per game, and she led the AMC South Division with 45 blocked shots as she started 20 of the team’s 27 games.
"Prior to the season, both Amy and Madisyn were expected to have an impact but neither were projected as starters,” said Gregory. "It is a credit to them for their work ethic and determination that they played such significant roles. We are looking forward to bigger and better things from both our freshmen as we look to the future.”
Junior center Erin Arnett also posted the best season of her career as she averaged 11.7 points and tied Helton for the team lead with 6.6 rebounds per game. She was named to the NCCAA East Region Team and was an AMC South Division Honorable Mention pick. She scored a career-high 30 points in a loss to Wilberforce University, and she also made some big defensive plays in the overtime loss at Ohio Dominican and the win at home against Shawnee State.
"The first goal we talked about this year with Erin was for her to shoot 50 percent from the field which she did,” said Gregory as Arnett went 119-for-232 from the field (51.3 percent). "She really seemed to come into her own this year and got comfortable with her surroundings and our system of play on both ends of the floor. There were times this year when we felt as a coaching staff that she was our best post defender. She also made some big plays on the offensive end of the floor, and I am pleased with the positive strides she is making in her game.”
Sophomore guard Katie Keller followed up an outstanding freshman season by averaging 11.9 points per game. She was second on the team in assists (73), steals (51), and three-pointers made (36), and she led the team by shooting 79.0 percent from the free throw line (64-for-81). She was named to the NCCAA East Region Team and was an AMC South Division Honorable Mention choice.
"I cannot say enough good things about the changes that Katie made to her game that truly helped us as a team this year,” said Gregory. "She struggled through a shooting slump in the middle of the season, but she regained momentum and her touch for the stretch run. Her leadership and team-above-self attitude was such a joy to watch this season as well as her growth as a person. I am excited about the 2005-2006 season already because I know it will be Katie’s breakout year.”
Morris wrapped up her career by averaging 7.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game as she played in all 27 games with seven starts. She led the team with 45 three-pointers made with none bigger than the game-winner against Shawnee State. Morris, who was an NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention pick, finishes her career ranked eighth in school history with 112 three-pointers made.
"Jenny was a nice weapon to have coming off the bench,” said Gregory. "She was a spark plug for us numerous times this year, and that is a blessing to have. She was one of our co-captains and will be sorely missed for her presence on and off the floor. All three of our seniors (Jenny, Britney Beavers, and Joni Peelman) have been a joy to coach and be around. They have each excelled in the classroom and have represented MVNU well, and they will all be sorely missed.”
Sophomore forward Miranda Capuano emerged as a scoring threat as the season progressed. She averaged 5.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, but she averaged nearly seven points per game over the final 12 contests including scoring 16 and 18 points in back-to-back games at Tiffin and Shawnee State. "Miranda really came on this season and made her presence known in conference play,” said Gregory. "She played outstanding at Tiffin and at Shawnee State as we won one game and lost in overtime in the other. Her improved play gives our coaching staff high hopes for next season both on the block and on the perimeter.”
Sophomore point guard Katy Barry led the Lady Cougars with 86 assists as she averaged 3.1 points per game, while sophomore guard Ashley Banas added 2.2 points per game and 40 assists. Sophomore guard Allison Linak nailed 20 three-pointers and averaged 4.5 points per game after joining the team following the completion of the MVNU women’s soccer season, and sophomore posts Amanda Rowe and Beth Ryder added depth on the inside.
With all five starters and several key reserves returning, the Lady Cougars will look to carry their momentum from the end of the season over into the 2005-2006 campaign.