York College women's basketball team, sparked by local talent, aims for successful season
- The York College women's basketball team finished at 18-9 overall last season.
- Seven of York's 16 players come from the York-Adams region.
- Red Lion grad Morgan Kuehne and Susquehannock grad Katie Wagner are York's top returning scorers.
A team can have a huge collection of individual talent, but that doesn’t always guarantee success.
It’s often the immeasurable, unwritten characteristics that lead to triumphs.
For the 2017-18 York College women’s basketball team, that ever-important trait can be summed up in a word — cohesion.
Across the board, the Spartans believe their unity is the main strength of this season’s squad.
“I think this is a really cohesive team. The chemistry is excellent,” Spartans head coach Betsy Witman said. “We have a mix of experienced veterans with a solid freshman class. We have a lot of local talent on our team and it gets exciting for the community.”
This year, the Spartans’ togetherness is born of having a deep, talented roster that is comprised of a wealth of locally-produced players. Seven of York’s 16 roster spots are taken by area talents.
“We are definitely athletic and physically talented, but I think there’s a cohesion, energy and level of focus that I’ve never felt on this team before,” junior forward Katie McGowan, a Dallastown High School graduate, said. “I think that’s very positive, that everyone seems on the same page and wants the same goals.”
Local look: The local flavor for the Spartans starts at the top.
Witman was a former standout at Hanover High before becoming a 1,000-point scorer for a James Madison University team that twice reached the NCAA Division I Sweet 16.
“I’m relying really heavily on that group, because it is almost half of my team,” Witman said of the area grads. “That’s always my goal, that I try to keep the best payers from York County and Adams County, keep them home, so to speak."
The Spartans will begin the season with four of five starters from local high schools.
Leading the way offensively will be senior forward Morgan Kuehne. A Red Lion graduate, Kuehne led the Spartans with a 12.2 points-per-game average last year. She was a second-team All-Capital Athletic Conference selection.
Witman is quick point to another local product, Susquehannock grad Katie Wagner, as the team's unsung hero.
“She has meant so much to this program, and she probably gets the least amount of credit of anyone,” Witman said of the senior. “Morgan has been very solid for us and has received the accolades from the conference, but Katie Wagner, to me, is one of the premier guards in the conference. She’s at the top of her game right now. She's just so deceivingly quick and she’s so humble. Really a team player.”
With a tough, slash-and-get-to-the-basket style, Wagner averaged 11.4 points per game last year. A defensive dynamo, Wagner was second on the Spartans in steals with 1.9 per game. She also recorded 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Wagner has a chance to leave as one of the most decorated female athletes in school history. Wagner will begin her final year with 742 points. Only 15 players in the program’s history have crossed the 1,000-point barrier. Wagner is also the No. 1 singles and double player on the women’s tennis team, and already holds the school record for singles’ victories.
“It’s my last year ever playing a sport, and I just want to go as far as we can,” Wagner said. “(Getting to 1,000 points) would be amazing, because in high school, I barely made it and it was a great accomplishment. But, honestly, getting further as a team, getting to the NCAA (Division III) tournament, would be ever more amazing personally.”
Kuehne also enters the season with a chance at reaching the same scoring milestone. With 678 career points, Kuehne would need to slightly outperform her 304-point total from last season.
Filling the gaps: One of the most notable departures from last season’s squad is Sam Hruz. A three-time All-CAC selection, Hruz graduated as the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots (251). She also finished second in the CAC in rebounds per game (9.3) a year ago.
“I think collectively we’ll be able to make up for that loss,” Witman said. “Katie McGowan’s game has really elevated. To me, she could be one of the dominant post players in the conference this year. If she stays healthy, stays in great shape and continues to have the focus and maturity she’s shown me so far, she could have a really special year.”
Witman feels the junior forward from Dallastown should be able to improve off a season that saw her score 6.9 points and pull down 4.0 rebounds per game.
After providing energy off the bench during her sophomore season, Debria Hendricks has played her way into a starting spot this season. The junior from Dallastown averaged 9.8 minutes while averaging 3.2 points last year.
Senior guard Sam Mocniak rounds out the projected starting five. Mocniak sank 39 3-pointers a season ago to lead York.
Other locals: Outside of the starting five, the Spartans also feature three other York-Adams League products.
After having earned second-team York-Adams League honors a season ago, freshman Haley Luckabaugh joins the team by way of New Oxford. York will also look for contributions from York Suburban graduate Molly Day, who missed last season with an injury. The York roster also includes junior forward Logynn Fuller from The York Country Day.
Others of note: The team’s strength won’t just come from York-Adams players.
Beth Wiseley, who contributed as a starter a season ago, and freshman Kayla Ferris will play crucial roles. Ferris is in a group of five incoming freshmen.
“Defensively, this is a team that can get up and pressure the full court, and we haven’t really been able to do that in many years,” Witman said. “With players like Debria Hendricks, Katie Wagner and our new freshman, Kayla Ferris, our backcourt is really quick and they have that mentality where they can get up and pressure.”
Last season: The Spartans are coming off a 18-9 season, with an 11-7 mark in CAC play. They were the fourth seed for the league tournament and fell in the semifinals to eventual champion Christopher Newport. York has reached the CAC semis in each of the last three seasons.
“This year we’ve really been talking about enjoying the process," Witman said. "Obviously, everyone wants to win the conference championship and go on to the NCAA tournament, that’s sort of an unspoken goal. But, they just want to work hard and enjoy the ride. I think if we can do that this year and stick together as a team, maintain that team chemistry and not care who gets the credit, we’re going to have a lot of success.”
The 2013-14 campaign marked the last time the Spartans brought home a CAC regular-season or postseason title. It's also the last time York made an appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament.
Achieving its goals this season will be no small task for York. It faces a daunting conference schedule that had three teams finish last season ranked in the top-25 nationally. Conference champ Christopher Newport made an appearance in the D-III Final Four. Mary Washington finished the season ranked 19th and Mayrmount came in at No. 22.
There’s also a mid-December visit from a tough Scranton squad that ended last season ranked 14th.
A new chapter opens Wednesday: The Spartans open with six of their first nine games at home. The slate starts Wednesday, Nov. 15, with a 6 p.m. game against McDaniel.
After Wednesday’s game, the Spartans stay home to play in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. The team hosts The College of New Jersey on Friday, Nov. 17, at 6 p.m. The next day, York hosts Rowan at 3 p.m.
Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.