2009-10 Calvin Women’s Basketball Outlook
Monday, November 02, 2009
The Calvin women’s basketball team will seek to blend youth and experience this upcoming season as the Knights will feature a handful of savvy veterans and an abundance of talented players among their freshmen and sophomore classes.
Veteran leadership will come from seniors Brook Van Eck (Lowell/Lowell HS) , Emily Ottenhoff (Palos Heights, IL/Chicago Christian HS), and Amber Benthem (McBain/McBain Christian HS) along with juniors Leah Morrison (Chelsea/Chelsea HS) and Kacy Cryderman (Dimondale/Holt HS).
A 5-9 power forward, Van Eck was a first team All-MIAA selection a year ago after averaging 13.2 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. Van Eck plays much bigger than what her height might attest to and showed her ability to be a “go-to” player on offense after senior center Marcia Harris was lost for a nine-game stretch during the conference season due to injury. A 5-9 wing forward, Benthem averaged 6.3 points and 2.6 rebounds per contest while starting in all 26 of Calvin’s games a year ago. The athletic forward also has the ability to play shooting guard when needed as she connected on 42.9 percent (27 of 63) of her three-point attempts. Also a standout with the Calvin women’s soccer team, the 5-7 Ottenhoff joined the team in late November and finally started getting her “basketball legs” underneath her around Christmas break.
Ottenhoff played admirably as the year progressed, averaging 3.1 points and 2.2 rebounds a game while contributing 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Ottenhoff will be a candidate for the starting point guard position but her development could be impacted by the conclusion of the Calvin women’s soccer season as the Knights have advanced to the NCAA III Women’s Soccer Tournament four straight years.
A 5-3 point guard, Morrison will also challenge for minutes this year as could the 6-0 Cryderman who is looking to bounce back from off-season surgery.
Junior Allie Duernberger (Long Beach, CA/Corona Del Mar HS) also joins the varsity for the first time after spending the past two years on the junior varsity. Duernberger is a 5-6 guard.
A trio of sophomores also will challenge for starting spots after receiving significant playing time as freshmen. Leah Mattson (Cadillac/Cadillac HS), a 5-7 guard will be a challenger for the point guard slot. She averaged 3.3 points and 1.2 assists per contest off the bench last year while appearing in all 26 of Calvin’s games.
Another sophomore to watch is 5-11 combo forward Courtney Kurncz (St. Johns/St. Johns HS) who appeared in all 26 games last year. Kurncz started the final 10. Over the course of the season, she averaged 5.8 points and 4.8 rebounds a game. Kurncz can play either the wing or power forward spots, giving head coach John Ross plenty of options. A highlight for Kurncz as a freshman was a career-high 17-point scoring output in a 76-68 February win over Albion.
Another sophomore with varsity experience is 5-7 shooting guard Jill Thomas (Grand Rapids/West Catholic HS). Thomas also came on strong down the final stretch of the 2008-09 year, averaging 2.8 points a game including a 10-point outburst in an overtime loss to league runner-up Saint Mary’s.
There are six freshmen on the Calvin roster including 6-2 post Carissa VerKaik (Holland/Holland Christian HS), 6-1 post Julia Hilbrands (Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Christian HS), 5-11 power forwards Ally Wollfis (Muskegon/Muskegon Mona Shores HS) and Shelby Carter (Byron Center/Byron Center HS) and 5-5 guards Kelsey Irwin (Fraser/Fraser HS) and Martice Moffett (Kentwood/East Kentwood HS).
“I am very thankful for the few upperclassmen we have on our roster for the upcoming season because we will be very young this year,” said Calvin women’s basketball coach John Ross who has fashioned a 130-36 record (.783) in six years as head coach of the Knights. “I think the leadership we receive from our seniors will be a key. Our freshmen and sophomore classes are very talented but we will need leadership from the upperclassmen. I think our depth in the post will be very strong this year but our overall depth in experience will be thin. A year ago we had a ton of great seniors and some key injuries kept us from having a stronger season. This year we have a lot of unknowns but at the same time, it’s exciting to see the new faces and we are anxiously for the upcoming season.”
Calvin will also have the luxury of playing a full season inside the Van Noord Arena – a state-of-the-art 4,700 seat facility that did not open until the first full week of January, forcing the Knights to play their first 11 games on the road. “We really like our new facility,” said Ross who nearly led Calvin to an upset win over second-ranked Hope in late February at the Van Noord Arena before falling 68-65. “I think the comfort level for our team will be much greater this year since we will have the ability to practice and play a full season in the arena. It’s a tough building for opponents to play in and we hope to make it a real homecourt advantage for our program for years to come.”
Calvin averaged 1,054 fans a game in only half a season inside the Van Noord Arena last year, allowing the Knights to finish third in the final NCAA III attendance standings.
Calvin is scheduled to open its season on November 17 when it hosts Cornerstone at the Van Noord Arena.
Calvin will also seek to maintain academic success. A year ago, the Knights earned a spot on the MIAA Team GPA and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association List list for maintaining a team grade point average of 3.503.