2008-09 York College Women's Basketball Preview

    The York College women’s basketball team enters the upcoming 2008-09 campaign coming off the most successful year in program history. The Spartans captured 19 wins last season as they finished third in the Capital Athletic Conference and advanced to the CAC semifinals.
    The Spartans welcome back all but two players from last year’s squad, however, one of those players, forward Kristen Daly, graduated as one of the top players in school history. Daly finished her career with 1,585 points, third on the all-time Spartan scoring list. She also departs York as a four-time All-CAC player including being named the CAC Rookie-of-the-Year in 2004-05.
    “I enjoyed getting to coach Kristen and Gina Casadei over the last four years,” states Spartan head coach Betsy Witman. “However, they are no longer here and we need to focus on the quality team we have coming back. We will not be able to replace Kristen’s production, but, we are hoping to do is have a number of players step up their performance. Those players are ready to make that transition and they understand that for us to achieve our goals, we need them to be even more productive.”
    While Witman won’t have Daly returning, she does get to have three-time All-CAC point guard Keli Ward return for her senior year. Ward is a member of the six-player senior class that will be counted on to lead the green and white, both on and off the floor. Fellow seniors Amanda Andrews and Donna Figenshu join Ward as the Spartan captains for the campaign, a combination that Witman really likes.
    “These three kids do a great job of being captains,” states Witman. “They each bring a different component to our leadership. Keli, Amanda, and Donna really compliment each other well and provide our team with very strong direction.”
    That leadership will be complimented by experience. In addition to Ward, Andrews, and Figenshu, seniors Chanel Perez, Amy Fry, and Jackie Garlock return to the green and white.    
    Ward is the engine that truly drives the Spartans. She joined the 1,000 career point club last year in addition to breaking the York College assist record as a junior. Ward averaged 14.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. She finished ninth in the CAC in scoring, first in free throw percentage, first in assist-to-turnover ratio, second in assists, third in three point field goal percentage, 10th in field goal percentage, 11th in steals, and 17th in rebounding.
    “Keli has been so incredible in her first three years,” states Witman. “She has played so many crucial minutes and provided us with great on-the-floor leadership since her freshman year. I have really enjoyed coaching her and I appreciate all that she has done for the program this year. I am excited to get to watch her close out her great Spartan career.”
    Andrews returns for her final year in the green and white coming off an outstanding junior campaign that saw her average 10.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, and just under two three-point field goals per game. She was one of York’s top threats from distance as she made the most of her first extended playing time as a Spartan. She started all 27 Spartan games and finished with 57 assists, 43 steals, and 10 blocked shots. She shot 42% from the floor, 36% from three, and 77% from the line.
    “Amanda really blossomed last year and I have seen that progression continue throughout the off-season,” says Witman. “She is a talented player that will play a big role in our success this year. Amanda is a great shooter that has become a good rebounder and defender. Her improvement is a testament to her work ethic and determination. She has the potential to be an All-CAC type of player for us this year.”
    Perez is the third of the four returning starters for the green and white. She finished last year averaging 8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and a team-leading 2.0 steals per game. Perez shot 39% from the floor and 73% from the free throw line as she played in 26 games last year. She blocked a team-high 24 shots while she also had 42 assists for YCP.
    “Chanel is primed for a big senior year,” says Witman. “She is such a good athlete that she is a tough match-up for most forwards. I expect Chanel to really step up and provide us with an athletic presence on the front line.”
    The fourth returning starter for the green and white is sophomore guard April Sparkman. Sparkman made an immediate impact on the lineup as she started 26 of her 27 games played. She averaged 9.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as she established herself as one of the key Spartans for the next three years. She shot 45.8% from the floor, 34.8% from three, and 75% from the charity stripe. She also did a good job on the glass with 107 defensive rebounds, the third highest mark on the team. Sparkman handed out 45 assists, collected 21 steals, and blocked 20 shots.
    “April is a player that has the potential to step up and be one of the top scorers on our team and in our conference,” says Witman. “However, what gets overlooked is the fact that she is a strong
rebounder and defender. Her length gives her the ability to mix it up under the glass while she can shut down perimeter players defensively. I think April will play a big role in what we do this year.”
    Witman will depend on a core of players that will be key cogs in the rotation. Fry, Garlock, sophomore Jaimie Sapp, Figenshu, junior Jamie Polan, and sophomores Caitlin Byrne, Gayle Exley, and Valerie Hudson are all options for Witman, not only in finding a fifth starter but also in forming the rotation for the season.
    Fry played in all 27 games last year as she averaged 3.6 points and 2.3 rebounds. Those numbers were career lows for the forward but Witman believes she has the ability to increase those numbers during her senior year.
    “Amy is a player that has the ability to do a number of things for us,” says Witman. “She is an
accurate shooter from inside 15 feet while she is a very good high post passer that makes smart
decisions within the offense. Amy also has the ability to be a solid rebounder and post defender.”
    Garlock is a player that has seen limited time in her Spartan career but she provides great depth for York in the frontcourt.
    “Jackie brings a number of things to the team, both on and off the floor,” says Witman.
    Sapp is a player that Witman expects to be significantly better as a sophomore. She finished 2007-08 averaging 2.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game as she played in 27 games, averaging 11 minutes per contest. Among her 54 rebounds, she grabbed 31 defensive caroms and 23 offensive boards while she also blocked 16 shots.
    “Jaimie has worked hard and put herself in position to be a key member of the rotation,” says
Witman. “Her offensive abilities combined with her ability on defense can really provide us with a great presence in the paint. I expect her to be an important part of the things we do this year.”
    Byrne will come off the bench to provide frontcourt depth for the green and white. Byrne is a player that has offensive abilities but needs to get better on the defensive end of the floor to earn more substantial playing time. She has a nice touch around the basket and also does a nice job of passing out of the post.
    “Caitlin is a player that has the potential to help us,” says Witman. “However, there are some things she needs to do better to see more time on the floor. Caitlin is very solid offensively but we need her to be a better individual and team defender. With some hard work, she can make herself into a factor as the year progresses.”
    Figenshu brings great leadership to the Spartans both on and off the floor. Last year she took a step and worked herself into the Spartan rotation, a place she figures to be this season. Figenshu is a solid shooter that can run the team from the point guard slot or also can play the two spot for the green and white. Figenshu averaged 2.7 points and 1.0 assists in 10.8 minutes per game last year. She shot 42% from three and 45.5% from the floor in her 27 games played.
    “Donna really does a great job as one of our captains,” says Witman. “She has continued to get better as a player and she has worked herself into a player that will be a member of the rotation. Donna has a strong work ethic and is a good example for our younger players.”
    Polan is another guard that Witman expects to compete for a spot in the rotation. Polan struggled to shoot the ball as a sophomore but has worked hard to recapture her freshman year form when she averaged almost four points a game.
    “I expect Jamie to be a part of what we do this year,” states Witman. “She has the ability to be an impact shooter for us and I believe she can get back to doing the things she does well.”
    Exley is a player that saw limited time as a freshman as she battled some injuries during the season. She is a classic small forward that can shoot it from the perimeter as well as doing some damage inside the arc. Exley is working her way back to health and will have a chance to contribute as a sophomore.
  “Gayle had a tough season last year thanks to the injuries she experienced,” says Witman. “If she can stay healthy, she has the ability to do some good things for us on the floor. She is a strong
forward that can be a physical presence for us while she is also a great passer.”
   Hudson is another sophomore that was limited as a freshman due to injury. She is a post player with the ability to play strong on the glass while she is also a solid defender in the paint. Hudson saw action in nine games as she averaged 0.7 points and 1.0 rebounds per game, numbers the coaching staff expects to improve during her sophomore year.
    “Val is a player that has really improved,” states Witman. “She will get the opportunity to play in the four or five spot for us and I expect her to take advantage of that chance. Val gives us great depth and I will be excited to see what she can do when healthy.”
    The Spartans lone newcomer this year is freshman Mandy Parshall. Parshall is no stranger to York College as her older sister Melody is a standout cross country performer for the green and white. Parshall is a very athletic player that has tremendous endurance and fitness. She brings a great work ethic to the squad and should give York solid depth at guard.
    “Mandy is a hard worker and someone who, as she adjusts to the collegiate game, will have a chance to help us,” says Witman. “She will make our team better with her physical skills and work ethic.”
    Witman looks towards 2008-09 with positive expectations.
    “I really want to enjoy this team this year,” states the Spartan mentor. “This is a tremendous group of kids who are the core of a team that set the wins record last year. We have a tough schedule to start the year but I am confident that our leadership, both on and off the floor, will help us have a very good year. I am ready to get started and get this team on the floor.”
    The Spartans open the season on November 15 when they host Messiah College in a nonconference contest.