AURORA, N.Y. – Head Coach Mike O'Brien and the Wells College women's basketball squad open their season this Friday, Nov. 15 as they face-off against the Golden Eagles from The College at Brockport. Since becoming a varsity program at Wells prior to the 2010-11 athletic season, the Express have steadily improved their performance in each of the previous three years. Early signs point to the Express continuing their upward patterns of success.
In 2012-13, the Express qualified for the postseason for the first time in team history and earned their first-ever playoff victory against SUNY Institute of Technology on Feb. 19, an 82-80 thriller in Marcy, N.Y. Despite being ousted from the semifinals by Lancaster Bible College, the Express were able to secure the experience necessary to make a return trip to the playoffs in 2013-14 entirely possible.
Wells will be led by a duo of captains this year as seniors Ashley Roser (Taberg, N.Y.) and Kristen Ryan (Syracuse, N.Y.) bring a combined 138 games of basketball experience to the table. Roser enters her fourth season of team leadership for Wells while Ryan enters her third year as a team captain for the Express.
In 2012-13, Roser averaged 21.2 points per game and an NCAA Division III-leading 16.7 rebounds per game in her third year at Wells. In addition, Roser racked up a team-best 72 blocks while adding 61 assists and 44 steals in 26 games played and started in an Express uniform. Most recently, Roser was selected to the 2013-14 Preseason All-American Honorable Mention list by Women's DIII News.
Last season, Roser earned 2012-13 North Eastern Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Year merits and also collected her 1,000th career point against the Saxons of Alfred University on Nov. 28, 2012 while also securing her 1,000th career rebound on Feb. 10. Entering the 2013-14 campaign, she has recorded at least 10 points in her past 34 games and has failed to reach double-digit point totals in only two of her 71 career games played. She has also recorded double-digit rebound totals in all but only eight career games.
Ryan appeared in 19 games for Wells as a junior. Her .556 shooting percentage (55-for-99) led all players on the Express and she tied her career-high with 45 assists. Additionally, she recorded a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and chipped in 11 steals while averaging 22.3 minutes per game.
Also returning to action for the Express are seniors Theresa Hernandez (Dewitt, N.Y.) and Brittany White (Lewiston, N.Y.). In 18 games off the bench for Wells, Hernandez played an average of 10.8 minutes per game and ranked fourth on the team with 20 steals to her credit. White averaged 4.4 points per game as a sophomore while chipping in 3.4 rebounds per game
Four juniors comprise the women's basketball roster in 2013-14, including Jessilyn Artaho-Aki (Kapa'a, Hawaii), Cassie Smythe (Eden, N.Y.), Charlee Weidman (New Berlin, N.Y.) and Kaitlynne Knapp (Port Byron, N.Y.). Artaho-Aki, the 2011-12 NEAC Rookie of the Year, made 19 appearances as a sophomore, scoring an average of 8.3 points per game alongside 60 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. Her 12 blocks were second on the squad while her 40 steals placed her third.
Smythe hammered home 27 three-point baskets for Wells, ranking second on the team in 2012-13. She averaged 4.1 points per game and played an average of 17.8 points per game for Wells as a sophomore. Additionally, she added 22 assists and 16 steals for the Express. Weidman, who joined the team late in the season, entered seven games off the bench for Wells.
Knapp, a transfer student from Onondaga Community College, averaged 7.9 points per game for the Lazers, who went a combined 29-3 in Division III of the National Junior College Athletic Association. With 108 blocks to her credit, Knapp led her team in that category and ranked fifth across all NJCAA Division III schools with 3.7 blocks per game. From the field, Knapp was 101-of-196 (.515) to rank third on her team.
Sophomore Lindsay Achzet (Johnstown, N.Y.), Shelby Bourn (Sidney, N.Y.), Brooke Benedetto (Williamstown, N.Y.) and Holli Erkson (Cooperstown, N.Y.) all return for their second seasons at Wells. Achzet was the only player on the Express to start all 27 games on the season – she averaged exactly eight points per game and also ranked second on the team with 5.1 rebounds per game. Bourn saw action in all but three games on the year while Benedetto played in 20 games for the Express.
As a freshman, Erkson ranked second on the squad in points per game (11.6) while also leading the team in free throw percentage (.764). Her 35 three-point baskets led all players while her 91 assists also placed her first amongst her teammates. Her 934 minutes played and 49 steals also placed her on top of her team's leaderboard.
Three freshmen are making their collegiate debuts for the Express this season. Anita Babb (Auburn, N.Y.), a two-sport athlete for the Maroons, was a league All-Star in high school and was tabbed as her school's Defensive Player of the Year. Olivia Baum (Summerville, S.C.) was a three-sport athlete and earned All-Section Team and All-Division Most Valuable Player honors for basketball. Taylor Spranger (Schenevus, N.Y.) was a First Team All-Star as a senior and collected Offensive Most Valuable Player honors in her final year of high school.
In non-conference action, Wells plays Alfred on the road next Tuesday, Nov. 19 before hosting D'Youville College (11/21) and Hilbert College (12/2). The Express also face-off against SUNY Canton (1/5), Keystone College (1/7), Penn College (1/13) and Alfred State College (1/14).