YORK, PA – Experienced. Talented. And now you can add deep.
Those three words are all very applicable when discussing the 2013-14 York College women's basketball squad. Head coach Betsy Witman enters 17th season at the helm of the Spartan program with, arguably on paper, her most talented squad.
Of course, Witman knows that championships are never won on paper. Championships are won over the course of a season and, ultimately, over three games at the end of February.
Witman has many reasons to be optimistic heading into the season. She welcomes back a foursome of four-year starters. Seniors Brittany Hicks (Dover, Pa./York Catholic), Kristen Haley (Silver Spring, Md./Georgetown Visitation), Aja Wallpher (Ellicott City, Md./Seton Keough), and Kelsey Murphy (Olney, Md./Good Counsel) form a seasoned core that gives Witman so many good things, both on and off the floor. The foursome have won a Capital Athletic Conference championship, advanced to a pair of CAC championship games, earned two NCAA Tournament berths and one Sweet 16 appearance.
"My seniors are really an exceptional group," says Witman. "I have had some great players and these four are certainly among my favorites. They each bring something a little different to the team. I have enjoyed coaching them and I expect big things from each of them this season."
Hicks returns to the line up as an All-American after a fantastic junior campaign. Hicks averaged a pair of team highs as she led the Green and White in scoring at 16.4 points per game and rebounding at 11.0 boards per contest. She shot 44% from the field and 75% from the free throw line as she once again led the Capital Athletic Conference in trips to the stripe with 188 attempts. Hicks also went over 1,000 career points late last season.
"Brit was great last year," says Witman. "She is such a tough competitor and I know every time she takes the floor we will get her maximum effort."
Haley is another standout as she averaged 15.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. She has been a three-time All-CAC performer and has been a rock in the post for the Green and White. Haley shot 44% from the floor while she also canned 17 threes over the course of the year. She blocked a team-high 45 shots while she also had 35 steals.
"Kristen is so steady," says Witman. "She is certainly our quiet leader. She has gotten better every year and I wouldn't expect this year to be any different."
Wallpher returns to the Spartans as the top pure point guard in the conference. She led the league in assists for the second year in a row as she handed out a whooping 180 dimes while she also collected 112 steals. Wallpher also has the ability to hit the pull up jumper as she averaged 8.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.
"Aja is certainly a conductor on the floor," says Witman. "She is an intense competitor who battles each and every day."
Murphy is one of the top shooters in the conference as she banged home a team-high 50 three-point field goals last year. She has added the ability to get to the basket and should have a chance to get to the line more frequently this winter. Murphy is also one of the Spartans' top perimeter defenders.
"Murph has really taken a leadership role with this squad," says Witman. "I really think she has the potential to have a big senior year."
Another key returner is junior Jess Selby (Upper Marlboro, Md./Calverton School). Selby got off to a great start last year before injuring her knee in the second game of the season and missing the remainder of the year. She retained the year of eligibility and is primed to pick up where she left off last year. Selby began the year with a 16-point outburst against Johns Hopkins and then had six points in the contest against Roanoke before suffering the injury midway through the first half.
"Jess is a very talented shooter who gives us a great perimeter threat," says Witman. "She has worked so hard to come back and she is pretty close to being where she was last year. I expect her to be a very important part of what we do this year."
Two other key returners for the Spartans are junior post Kailee Knight (Crofton, Md./South River) and guard Julianne Lambert (Hockessin, Del./Padua Academy). Knight was thrust into a starting role after Selby's injury last year and she responded well. Knight averaged 4.7 points and 6.5 rebounds in her 27 games for the year. Knight blocked 32 shots and also had 39 assists and 16 steals in her 719 minutes of play.
"Kailee played really well for us last year," says Witman. "She will have a little bit different role this year and I expect that to be great for her. She is a tenacious rebounder and defender and who should flourish with what we will ask her to do."
Lambert played in all 27 games during her freshman year as she provided depth at the guard position for York. She tallied 2.8 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. The coaching staff feels Lambert is poised to take a big step in her second year in the program.
"Jules has made great progress and I expect to see a different, more confident player on the floor this year," says Witman. "She can play fast and I see her getting the ability to come off the bench and give us a boost."
Sophomore Alia Smith (Brinklow, Md./Sherwood) is another returner who will have an opportunity to break into the rotation. She is a talented offensive player who is continuing to develop on the defensive end of the floor.
Witman welcomes in a pair of key transfers into the program. Junior post Shea Wassel (North Wales, Pa./Lansdale Catholic) and sophomore guard Karli McFatridge (York, Pa./York Catholic) are a pair of players who will have a significant impact on the Spartan line up this year.
Wassel is a skilled low post presence who gives a scoring and rebounding boost to the already talented post rotation. McFatridge is a tough, hard-nosed guard who will see significant time in the guard rotation.
"Shea and Karli both bring a great deal to the team," says Witman. "Shea is a true low post player who does a fantastic job of finishing around the basket while she is a tenacious rebounder. Karli is a guard who is experienced and very smart. She has fit in really well with the way we play."
Witman welcomes a very talented freshman class that contains six new Spartans. Forward Sam Hruz (White Marsh, Md./Mercy), guard Brianna Bisci (Bangor, Pa./Bangor), guard Sarah Shearer (York, Pa./West York), forward Morgan Golec (Abington, Md./Patterson Mill), forward Lauren Eckholm (Manchester, Md./Maryvale Prep), and forward Dalida Camdzic (Carlisle, Pa./Big Spring) give Witman a very strong core of newcomers.
"I am really am excited about the potential of this freshman class," says Witman. "They all have a lot to learn but they each bring something very good to the table. I am looking forward to see how each of them will grow and contribute throughout the year."
Witman looks towards the upcoming season with tremendous optimism.
"We have a very difficult schedule and our league is now far more challenging," says Witman. "That being said, we have a very deep team. We have a very talented team. I believe if we can stay healthy and we work hard, we will grow and improve each and every day. That will allow us to be there at the end, competing for a championship. We just want to give ourselves a good shot at winning the league and advancing to the NCAA Tournament."
The Spartans open their season on Friday, November 15 when they host the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. York opens the tournament at 6:00 pm when they host Pitt-Bradford. That game is followed by Waynesburg and Bridgewater squaring off at 8:00 pm. The tournament's consolation game will be Saturday at 1:00 pm followed by the championship game at 3:00 pm.