Yeowomen Gear Up For New Season


Ben Shepard

Junior guard Briana Santiago delivers a pass across the lane to senior forward Katie Lucaites. The Yeowomen will open their season with a home game Saturday at 6 p.m. against the Olivet College Comets.

Jackie McDermott, Sports Editor

Consistency, hard work, and focus in each and every practice and game — those are the values that Oberlin women’s basketball players and coaches have adopted to build upon last year’s success.

The Yeowomen posted one of the best seasons in school history in 2014—2015, led by perhaps the greatest player in school history, Christina Marquette, OC ’15, who graduated as the program’s all-time leader in scoring and rebounding.

While Marquette’s graduation leaves a void, the team returns with a determined and talented roster of veterans, strengthened by the addition of four promising first-years ready to take on a challenging schedule with the belief that a return to the conference playoffs is in its future.

Leading the charge will be senior captain Lindsey Bernhardt, one of the North Coast Athletic Conference’s top shooters. Bernhardt averaged 15 points per game last season and finished second in the NCAC in three-pointers, racking up 64. Rounding out the senior leadership are Bernhardt’s fellow captains, point-guard Caroline Hamilton and center Katie Lucaites. Hamilton finished third on the team in shooting last season, averaging a strong 7.2 points per game. Lucaites, at 6 feet 1 inch, shot a team high of 57 percent from the field last season and will be an imposing inside force.

The team promises to be strong in the paint. With five women standing over 6 feet, the 2015—2016 team is one of the tallest Oberlin teams in recent history. In addition to Lucaites, junior forward Eleanor van Buren, sophomore forwards Abby Andrews and Anna Moore and first-year center Olivia Canning will compose Oberlin’s strong frontcourt. Andrews and Moore finished in the top 10 in the conference in blocks as first-years, and van Buren contributed valuable minutes in 23 games during her sophomore campaign.

Tyler Parlor was another valuable player last year. Parlor played in all 26 games during her freshman season and finished second on the team in rebounds with an impressive 158.

Juniors Briana Santiago and Connie Estevez round out the returners. The two played in 23 and 22 games last year, respectively, and are expected to contribute at the perimeter.

Head Coach Kerry Jenkins is excited about what this group brings to the table. He sees Marquette’s graduation as an opportunity for every player to step up. “It’s always hard to lose a player like Christina … but we had a lot of production surrounding her,” he said. “So now I think the impetus will be on each player to play day in and day out.”

Jenkins also thinks the team as a whole will take to the courts as a stronger unit, and said he looks forward to seeing the Yeowomen’s work ethic pay off in games.

“We’re a little better than we were last year, a little more talented than we were last year,” he added. “The girls are working so hard, and they’re so invested. There’s a palpable sense of what we can achieve if we come together as a group.”

Key players adding to the team’s potential for success are the first-year group of Canning, forward Sarah Feinberg and guards Alexandra Stipano and Sabrina DeLeonibus.

Feinberg suffered an ankle injury during the off-season, but once she returns to the court she will contribute with her effective mid-range jump shot. Stipano will strengthen the team’s perimeter shooting, and DeLeonibus will challenge for minutes in the back court.

“We have a very strong class of first-years,” Hamilton said. “They really know the game and have a lot of talent. They [have] been really impressive thus far in practice and scrimmages, and I am excited to see what they [will] do this season.”

The 2015—2016 team hopes to follow a trajectory of improvement similar to last season. The Yeowomen peaked at the right time — in the latter part of the season — earning a school record 10 conference wins and hosting the first round of NCAC playoffs for the first time since 1990 before falling short to Ohio Wesleyan University and finishing fourth in the conference.

Hamilton and van Buren both hope to replicate the dedication to consistent improvement and willingness to put time in outside of practice that were essential to last year’s success.

“When we got back from winter break last year and entered into January term, we all committed to getting better individually,” Van Buren said. “We put in the extra time at the gym, and the commitment we made to each other became the catalyst for our overall confidence as a team. We trusted in our abilities and pushed our potential.”

Coach Jenkins has been helping his players push the ceiling of their potential for eight seasons with the Yeowomen. He enters this season tied for the most coaching wins in program history and was honored as the 2015 NCAC Coach of the Year last season.

Jenkins said his coaching philosophy centers on consistency and honesty. He attributed the team’s consistent improvement last season in part to the coaching staff unifying the team’s mentality.

“That is our strongest attribute as a team: everybody is on the same page,” Jenkins said.

Hamilton said she agrees. “[Last season], we really believed in the system Coach put us in, and we were all on the same page. … Our success last year was a product of buy-in by every player on the team,” she said.

The 2015-2016 Yeowomen got their first taste of competition in scrimmages against John Carroll University and Case Western Reserve University in early November. Hamilton said the team is focusing on all of the right things in practice as they prepare for the Nov. 14 game against Olivet College.

“Going into Olivet, the coaches are really emphasizing the approach to the game, which starts with our approach to practice,” she said. “There has been stress on the importance of bringing game-like intensity to every drill in practice and having carryover from drill to drill, practice to practice and, ultimately, practice to games.”

Coach Jenkins said the Yeowomen are facing a difficult series of competitors this season that will test the team’s mettle and preparation.

“The early part of the season is about developing depth and chemistry,” he said. “This is the hardest schedule we’ve had since I’ve been here, in the out-of-conference portion of the schedule, but we are doing it to prepare for the conference portion.”

Hamilton has faith that this tough out-of-conference schedule will help the team return the playoffs.

“We know where we want to be at the end of the season, but most importantly, we know it is a process and we have to get better every day,” she said. “We have to use every practice to get better and learn from every game, win or loss, and if we embrace this process as a team, then we will progress to be where we want to be at the end of February.”

The Yeowomen will take on Olivet College during their home opener on Saturday.