“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
That sentence best describes the 2007-08 version of the York College women’s basketball team. The Spartans, coming off a year in which they tied a school record for wins with 18, enter the campaign with a talented core of returners and an exciting class of freshmen that will provide the Spartans with the deepest team in school history.
Spartan head coach Betsy Witman enters the season as excited as she has been in her 10 previous seasons at the helm of the York College program.
“These kids are dedicated to making this the best program it can be,” says Witman. “Their talent, combined with their desire to improve, makes us a team that should have one of our best seasons ever.”
Witman has many reasons to be excited, but two major reasons are the return of senior forward Kristen Daly and junior point guard Keli Ward, the Spartans’ two first-team All-Capital Athletic Conference players last year.
Daly led the team in scoring last year as she averaged 16.6 points per game while she also led the green and white in rebounding at 8.0 caroms per game. Daly reached the 1,000-career point plateau in January and begins her senior year as one of the best players to ever don the green and white.
“Kristen is the model player for our program,” states Witman. “She is a versatile player that can bring the ball up, shoot it from the perimeter, drive to the basket, rebound, defend and make her teammates better. She has been a privilege to coach for the last three years.”
Ward begins her junior year as one of the best guards in the region. She is a two-time All-CAC selection, an all-region pick, and the 2005-06 CAC Rookie-of-the-Year. She averaged 14.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. Ward was one of York’s top threats from distance, converting 35.9% of her attempts from beyond the three-point arc. Those are numbers that could be even better this year.
“Keli is one of the best point guards in the country,” says Witman. “She has an incredible knack for always being in the right place at the right time. Keli makes the right plays and puts her teammates in positions to succeed. She is the most unselfish player I have ever coached, sometimes to a fault.”
Joining Daly and Ward as core returners are senior guard Gina Casadei, junior forward Chanel Perez, junior forward Amy Fry, junior guard Amanda Andrews, and sophomore guard Jamie Polan.
Casadei is a defensive whiz that has become a very consistent offensive player. She battled injuries last year but was solid as she averaged 3.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. She also notched 23 steals in her 26 games played.
“Gina is a tremendously hard worker,” states Witman.
“She is an extremely intelligent player that understands
individual and team defense. Gina is one of the toughest players on
Perez begins her third year in the green and white as one of the top athletes in the CAC. She averaged 9.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last year. Perez blocked a team-best 38 shots last year while she also collected 35 steals. Perez also made a team-high 121 trips to the free throw line while she converted a team-high 80 free throws. She is a very tough match up for opposing forwards and brings a high level of energy to the Spartan lineup.
“Chanel is in tremendous shape,” says Witman. “She can do so many positive things for us on the floor. She is a great rebounder and runs the floor better than most forwards we face. She continues to work hard and is a key member of our rotation.”
Fry had a very solid sophomore campaign as she averaged 8.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Fry was very efficient from the floor as she shot 51.3% from the field. She is an intelligent player that is a good shooter from 15 feet and in. Fry is also a good passer that makes strong passes from the high post.
“Amy had a very good year and is an important part of our rotation,” states Witman. “She is an outstanding passer and understands her role in our offense.”
Andrews is an explosive scorer that has grown as a player. She averaged 7.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. She converted 28 three-point field goals for the year and is a big, athletic guard that is another tough match up for opponents.
“Amanda has a world of ability,” says Witman. “She has continued to grow as a player and I expect her to have a very good junior year.”
Polan plays a key role on the Spartans as York’s second point guard. She got valuable experience as a freshman and Witman would like to have her on the floor with Ward more often, allowing Ward to play more of the two spot.
“Jamie had a great summer and got the opportunity to run the point with the rest of the team,” says Witman. “She is a good shooter and has matured as a player. We certainly don’t have any reservations about her playing quality minutes.”
Junior guard Donna Figenshu and junior forward Jackie Garlock are the other two returners. Figenshu saw action in 22 games last year while Garlock played in seven contests.
In addition to York’s core of returners, Witman brought in five new players that all will have the chance to make an impact on the Spartan squad. Guard April Sparkman, forward Gayle Exley, center Jaimie Sapp, forward/center Valerie Hudson, and forward/center Caitlin Byrne compose a class that features good size, great ability and a desire to contribute earlier than later in their careers.
Sparkman is a guard that comes from an outstanding high school program in Walkersville, MD. She is a poised player that is ready to contribute to the Spartans immediately. Sparkman is a great perimeter shooter and is very basketball smart.
“April is already a very complete player,” says Witman. “She comes to college well schooled in the game and is prepared to contribute early on.”
Exley owns a post body but has an array of guard skills. She has three point range on her jumper but is also an outstanding passer. Exley has a very strong understanding of the game and is poised to be a contributor as a freshman.
“Gayle is a player that has great size but has the skills of a smaller player,” says Witman. “Her versatility will be a big asset for us this season.”
One of Witman’s focuses in recruiting was getting more size in the post. She certainly was successful in that endeavor with the arrival of Sapp, Hudson, and Byrne. Sapp is a solid low block presence on both ends of the floor. She has a great work ethic with the potential to be a contributor to the Spartan lineup. Hudson is a hard worker and a solid low block defender. She is a good shooter with range and will be in the mix for playing time in her first year in the green and white. Byrne is a good post defender with the ability to step out on the perimeter and hit the jump shot. She has good court vision and runs the floor well. As she continues to improve her fitness level, Byrne will have a chance to make major contributions to the Spartan front line.
“The post was a major area where we lacked depth this year,” states Witman. “We addressed that in recruiting and I believe Jaimie, Valerie, and Caitlin give us three strong post players that will add to what we bring back from last year. I am excited to be able to have a strong presence in the paint this year.”
The expectations for this year’s edition of the Spartans are simple. Earn the school’s first women’s basketball Capital Athletic Conference championship and make their first NCAA Tournament appearance in the history of the program. Simple goals to state, difficult to accomplish.
“I believe this team is the deepest and most complete that I have had in my tenure at York,” states Witman. “I don’t know what our final record will be but I am certain of a number of things this year. This team will work extremely hard. This team will challenge themselves, and this team will maximize their abilities each and every day whether we are practicing or playing a game. This has the potential to be a great season.”
The Spartan season kicks off on November 17 when they travel to
Guilford College Tournament. The Spartans make their 2007-08 home
debut on November 20 against Goucher College.