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Oberlin women's basketball: Memories of final game fuel hopeful Yeowomen

The Oberlin College women won five games last season, but it was their final game, a six-point road loss to a 20-win Ohio Wesleyan University team, which got them geared up for this year. In that loss, the Yeowomen connected on 24 of 55 shots from the floor, 6-of-13 3-pointers and matched the Battling Bishops with 42 rebounds. However, in the end, they couldn’t overcome their 26 turnovers.

“I have a lot of confidence in our team, especially after seeing the program start to turn last year,” said senior guard Christina Spencer, who will be in the starting lineup for tonight’s season opener against Spaulding University at The College of Mount St. Joseph’s weekend tournament. “That last game of the season, against Ohio Wesleyan, was definitely a turning point for our team.We’re not turning back after that game.

“We know exactly what we want in terms of expectations to win this year versus the past couple years where we’ve kind of hoped for the best. Our goal is to execute, and if we’re successful in executing our offense and locking down on defense, then we’re going to win no matter what.”

Spencer returns to the court this season after averaging only 9.4 minutes per game in 13 appearances a year ago. She suffered through some injuries, but returned this season on a mission to succeed.

“This year, I’m coming back healthy and I’m just looking to be a leader,” she said. “I’ve been craving this for quite a while. We have a lot of talent on our team. Even though we’re still young, we have a lot of experience.

“A lot of teams have freshmen and sophomores on their team who don’t necessarily play a lot, but we had all of them in our starting lineup last year, so we have a lot of experienced girls and really hard workers on our team.”

Though she’s not a big scorer, Spencer sets the example for the Yeowomen.

“Christina is the kind of kid who’s an unsung hero,” said Oberlin coach Kerry Jenkins, in his third year. “I talk to her all the time that, ‘Your name is not going in the paper. You’re not going to get accolades. People aren’t probably going to know who you are, but your presence is a calming effect. You give other people confidence, so if you play well, we’re going to play well. If you play positive, we’re going to play positive.’ “You need that kind of presence on the team. It’s not always having the super-five most talented people out on the court. You’ve got to have good chemistry to have good communication and you’ve got to have good leadership. Christina brings that to the table.”

In addition to Spencer, senior guard Syrea Thomas, and sophomores Kelly Warlich and Allison Anderson will be key.

Thomas, the offensive leader as point guard, started 25 of 26 games and averaged 38.2 minutes per game as a junior. She had 42 assists, 67 steals and led the team in scoring with 365 points. Warlich scored down 56 3-pointers and averaged 12 points a game. She added 6.9 rebounds, including a team-best 161 on defensive.

Anderson, the North Coast Athletic Conference’s Newcomer of the Year, scored 13.8 points a game, had led the team with 80, 146 assists and a 76.8 free throw percentage, all while being Oberlin’s only player to log more than 1,000 playing minutes.

“I really pressed her and encouraged her to grow as a player,” Jenkins said. “‘Don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t rest on what happened last year. You have to improve, you have to get better, you have to make better decisions, turn the ball over a little bit less and you have to get better as a player. There’s going to be a gigantic red target on your forehead this year, and you have to expect that people are going to give you their best.’” “Kelly had some success last year, but Kelly’s one of those kids that you have to have on the team — a Jack of all trades,” he added. “She rebounds a little, she shoots the three, she can put the ball on the floor, she plays good defense, she blocks shots. She’s one of those kids that does it all in every statistical category.”

Contact Matt Florjancic at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.

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