2014-15 Women's Basketball
November 7, 2014
By: Ryan Schadewald, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University women’s basketball team looks to continue to build on last year’s run into the HCAC tournament and has important contributors back from that team. The Beavers return four starters and eight letter winners from last year’s 14-12 squad, leading to high hopes for the upcoming campaign. “The expectation is that the learning curve will be minimized,” Shutler said about the amount of talent returning to the squad for the coming season.
Head coach Chad Shutler is going into his 10th year coaching the Beavers and will be assisted by second-year graduate assistant Brianna Calver, as well as first year assistant and former Bluffton High School head coach Dennis Lee, and Lawrence Ervin.
A key returnee to the roster comes in senior Brenna Kurilec (Mt. Gilead, Gilead Christian) who injured her knee in the preseason of the 2013-14 season and never saw the floor. After a breakout second half in 2012-13 when she led the Beavers in scoring eight times, Coach Shutler and the women are excited for her to return. “She had a great second half to her sophomore season and we expect her to pick up where she left off,” Shutler said about Kurilec. Bluffton’s other senior is Mikayla Coburn (McGuffey/Upper Scioto Valley) who has battled back from numerous knee injuries to be able to get on the floor for her final season.
The Beavers return two double-digit scorers from last year in Kaitlyn Pennekamp (Hamilton/Ross) and Taylor Whitaker (Mansfield/Lexington). Whitaker did an exceptional job providing instant offense off the bench for most of 2013-14. Leading rebounder Rachel Beining (Ottoville) also brings back 9.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and a .519 shooting percentage for her sophomore season. Point guard Taylor Knight (Perrysburg), a two-year starter out front, is the floor general for an experienced Beaver squad after averaging 3.5 assists per game as a sophomore.
Bluffton also returns junior Abby Jerger (Middletown/Madison) and sophomore Gwen Downing (Kenton) as key bench performers from last season. Junior Marina Lyons (Springfield/Catholic) along with sophomores Ashley Salyer (Marion/River Valley) and Jessica Boggan (Cincinnati/Princeton) look to increase their minutes this season as well. Bluffton will also have key freshmen looking to fight for playing time in 2014-15, including Macey Sheerer (Bucyrus), Abigail O’Donnell (Arcanum), Olivia Poole (Shaker Heights) and Vanitrus Prime (Cincinnati/Winton Woods).
“We have to improve our shooting percentage and rebounding, and also reduce our turnovers if we are to be successful this season” explained Shutler about the keys to this season’s success. The Beavers struggled to start the season last year, falling to 2-4 early on before four straight victories to finish 2013, including winning their own holiday tournament. Bluffton would round out the season losing only two home conference games while finishing HCAC play at 10-8 and earning a four-seed in the HCAC tournament before falling to Manchester by three points in the opening round.
Fast forward to this season and Coach Shutler believes the team can build on the success they had in conference play last year, including splitting with perennial favorites Hanover and Franklin. “Our expectation is to be back at the top end of the conference again this year,” according to Shutler. He also believes that the returning depth is crucial because the chemistry of the team is already there. The HCAC coaches rewarded Bluffton for its highly-successful 2013-14 campaign by voting the Beavers fourth in the recent pre-season poll, behind #25 Transylvania, Hanover and Franklin.
The Bluffton women will open the 2014-15 season on Saturday, Nov. 15 at the Webster University Tip-Off tournament in St. Louis, Mo., against Spalding University. The home opener will be the following Saturday when they take on the College of Wooster Fighting Scots in the Sommer Center at 3 p.m. on November 22. The HCAC opener is slated for Wednesday, Dec. 3 as the Beavers are home for the Earlham College Quakers at 7:30 p.m.