2013-14 Women's Basketball
By: Evan Skilliter, sports information assistant
November 7, 2013
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The 2013-14 Bluffton women's basketball team is ready to build on last year's 12-13 record and counting on youth to be an integral part of that success. The Beavers return the bulk of last year's squad which finished the season with the most wins for a Bluffton women's basketball team since the 2008-09 squad tallied 15 victories, including leading scorer and rebounder Brooke Ruffer (Stryker), who averaged 11.7 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game as a freshman.
Head Coach Chad Shutler is entering his ninth season at the helm. Shutler sits third all-time in wins in Bluffton women's basketball history with 73. He will be joined on the bench by first-year graduate assistant Brianna Calver.
Aside from Ruffer, Bluffton's next four top scorers from last season are junior Brenna Kurilec (Mt. Gilead/Gilead Christian), with eight points per game, and a trio of three sophomores. Taylor Whitaker (Mansfield/Lexington) tallied 7.6 ppg, Taylor Knight (Perrysburg) chipped in with 6.3 ppg and Kaitlyn Pennekamp (Hamilton/Ross) added 6.0 ppg.
Also returning for the Beavers are junior Belicia Cooper (Painesville/Riverside), sophomore Karen Wise (Findlay/Reverdale), sophomore Abby Jerger (Middletown/Madison), senior Lauren Hutton (New Riegel), senior Kylee Burkholder (West Unity/Hiltop) and sophomore Marina Lyons (Springfield/Central Catholic).
"Consistency, free throw percentage and road wins will be keys to success this season," according to Shutler. The Beavers started last season 4-0 after defeating Aurora University, Hiram College, Wooster, and Oberlin in consecutive games. They slid to 6-7 after scoring just two victories in the next nine games before delivering a three- game conference win streak to push their record to 9-7. Bluffton struggled to close out the season, winning just three of the last nine games.
Shutler said, "It's a long season, especially for young players like we had last year. It's much longer than the high school season. The pace and the physicality are both different. It takes a tremendous amount of mental toughness, and that comes with experience."
Shutler added that he'd like to see the team shoot in the mid-40's percent range from the field, compared to last year's squad that finished near 38 percent. He would also like to see a better free throw percentage along with emphasis on taking care of the ball.
Another major stumbling block last season was Bluffton's struggles on the road. In 2012-13, the Beavers finished with an away record of 3-10 compared to a sterling 9-3 mark in the Sommer Center. This season the Beavers will play 12 home games (13 away). The first four contests will be on the road at the North Central Tip-off, Kalamazoo and Wooster.
"This team has as much talent as any team we've had in the past," said Shutler. "We have players that will compete for starting time and push others to get better. Our team chemistry and team dynamics are fantastic. We can be as competitive as we want to be and we can make a push for the top, but nothing will be handed to us."
Bluffton will open the season November 15 against Hope College at the North Central Tip-Off Tournament. The first home game is set for November 30 at 3 p.m. against Heidelberg. The Beavers will open conference play, looking to improve on last year's 7-11 record in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, on December 4 at Earlham. The home conference opener is slated for December 7 against Franklin at 2 p.m.