YORK, PA – The York College women's basketball squad enters the 2015-16 season with a cautious optimism after an up-and-down campaign last winter.
Head coach Betsy Witman enters her 19th year at the helm of the program with a strong roster of returners buoyed by an outstanding freshman class. Last year, Witman had a number of questions after graduating the greatest four-year class in program history. This year, Witman has a good idea of what she has returning to the Green and White lineup.
The highs for the Spartans in 2014-15 included a Coaches vs. Cancer Championship, a stretch of six wins in seven games, coach Witman's 300th career win, and a come-from-behind road win at Christopher Newport in the CAC tournament first round. The Green and White trailed by 18 in that game against the Captains before their huge comeback victory. The lows included three close losses to eventual conference champion Salisbury, a five game losing skid early in the year, and injuries that led to York dropping four of their last five games of the year.
Junior forward Sam Hruz (White Marsh, Md./Mercy) leads the returners, as she is York's lone returning All-Capital Athletic Conference selection. Hruz does a little bit of everything for the Green and White. She averaged 11.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 2.5 blocks per game. Hruz shot 41.5% from the floor, 26.6% from three and 72.3% from the charity strip as she made a team-high 119 trips to the line.
Hruz had 17 double figure scoring games last year including a career-high 22 points in the win at CNU on February 24.
Witman knows how good Hruz was last season.
"Sam has the ability to do so many different things well on the floor and that makes her very valuable," says Witman. "She scores, rebounds, defends, runs the floor and is a gifted passer. When Sam is playing well, we are going to be a pretty tough team to beat."
Hruz is far from a one-woman show as junior Brianna Bisci (Bangor, Pa./Bangor), junior Morgan Golec (Abingdon, Md./Patterson Mill), junior Sarah Shearer (York, Pa./West York), and sophomore Katie Wagner (Glen Rock, Pa./Susquehannock) are four other players who return with significant experience from last year.
Bisci is the Spartans starting point guard and had a really good year running the York offense last winter. Bisci averaged 4.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. While her numbers aren't eye popping, her ability to run the Spartan offense efficiently is why she is on the floor for York. Bisci does have the ability to knock down the three, making her a solid option on the perimeter.
"Bish is the daughter of a coach and she really understands the game," says Witman. "She is an extremely hard worker who has continued to get better as a player. Her maturity on the floor gives us great leadership at the point."
Golec had a strong sophomore campaign in 2014-15. She averaged 6.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. After a rough start to the year, Golec came on like gangbusters as she had seven double-digit scoring efforts over the final 20 games of the year. She tallied a career-high 19 points in the February 18 game against Frostburg State. Golec has also come back in fantastic shape for the upcoming season.
"I think Morgan could have a really big year for us," says Witman. "She is a strong athlete who understands the game and is so much more confident on the floor."
Shearer had her year cut short by a hand injury as she missed the final eight games of the year. The Spartans went 3-5 without Shearer in the lineup. She averaged 6.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in her 18 games of action. Shearer had a stretch where she averaged 10.1 points per game over a six game stretch in the middle of the year.
"When Sarah got hurt last year, it really hurt us," says Witman. "We had gotten in a good groove with the rotation and Sarah was doing a lot of good things on the floor. She's a player who does a little bit of everything. We really missed that when she was out of the lineup. I am excited to see what type of year she can have."
Wagner made an immediate impact on the Spartans as she scored 20 points in two of her first three games. She went through a lull during the middle of the year as she battled a hamstring injury but came on strong to end the year. She concluded the campaign by averaging 6.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game. She has returned for her sophomore year stronger and ready to take on a bigger role for York.
"Katie has come back better and ready to go this year," says Witman. "She is a good athlete who is deceptively quick. Her ability to defend and run the floor will be an important part of what we do this year."
Sophomore forward Morgan Kuehne (Red Lion, Pa./Red Lion) is a young player who has taken a big jump in the preseason and appears to be poised to earn a spot in the Spartans' frontcourt rotation. As a freshman, Kuehne averaged 3.6 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in 10 minutes per contest. Those are numbers the coaching staff expects to jump during her second year in the Green and White.
"Morgan worked very hard in the offseason and it shows," says Witman. "I believe she will play a very important role in what we are doing with our bigs. Morgan is a very good mid-range shooter and plays with a high motor."
Junior Karli McFatridge (York, Pa./York Catholic) returns to the Green and White lineup after playing just two games last year as she suffered a knee injury in the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Her return excites Witman as her experience and ability to knock down open shots gives York another wrinkle at guard.
"I am so happy to have Karli back," says Witman. "She is a very poised player who understands how we want to play. Karli has worked so hard to come back from her injury and she has looked great in the preseason. She can be a huge factor in the back court this year."
Redshirt freshman Beth Wiseley (Macungie, Pa./Emmaus) returns after she missed the final 19 games of the year and received a medical redshirt. The talented guard will also miss time at the start of this year but Witman feels she can contribute to this team this year.
"Beth has had a little bit of bad luck because of injury but I feel she can contribute to this team this year," says Witman. "She is a tall and athletic swing player who can really play. "
Seniors Julianne Lambert (Hockessin, Del./Padua Academy) and Alia Smith (Brinklow, Md./Sherwood) give York solid leadership as seniors. Lambert will see her time at guard this year. She played in 26 games last year with three starts as she averaged 3.6 points and 2.7 assists per game. Smith gives York quality depth as a swing guard. She played seven games last year off the bench for York.
"Jules and Alia are both strong leaders for our team," says Witman. "They are both hard workers and understand their roles on our team."
Sophomore Sam Mocniak (Annapolis, Md./St. Mary's Annapolis) and junior Dalida Camdzic (Carlisle, Pa./Big Spring) are a pair of players working to get into the guard and forward rotation respectively. Mocniak played in 26 games as a freshman as she averaged 3.8 points per game. Camdzic saw time in 16 games as a sophomore but has had a strong preseason for York.
Witman's six-player freshman class is deep in both guards and forwards. Guards Debria Hendricks (Red Lion, Pa./Dallastown), Jeyliane Rivera (Middletown, Pa./Middletown Area), Victoria Varner (Mifflintown, Pa./Juniata), and Julia Strothers (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield) join forwards Katie McGowan (York, Pa./Dallastown) and Logynn Fuller (York, Pa./York Country Day) give Witma n a class with the ability to impact this year's squad.
"There are a few of these freshmen will have a chance to contribute this season," says Witman. "I think this class will have the opportunity to make a significant impact on our program by the time they are done with their careers."
The Spartans open their season with a pair of road games as they head to Arcadia on November 14. They follow that with a trip east on Route 30 to play Franklin & Marshall. The Spartans open up their home slate on Saturday, November 21 against Newbury in the opening round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. McDaniel and Worcester are the other two teams competing in the tournament.
York opens conference play on Wednesday, December 2 against Wesley at Wolf Gymnasium.