VWC basketball teams No. 1 at mid-season turn
VIRGINIA BEACH -- It's a unique situation for the Virginia Wesleyan College men's and women's basketball teams.
As the Marlins squads prepare to enter the second half of the 2011-12 season, they share a common distinction ... both are currently sitting at first place in the tough Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
It's only the second time since VWC joined the league in the 1989-90 season that it has happened. The first time was during the 2006-07 season when the men were 9-0 at the turn, while the women were 9-1, tied with Randolph-Macon College.
This year, the women once again own a 9-1 conference mark, and are tied with Guilford College and Eastern Mennonite University for the top spot, while the Marlin men are all alone at No. 1 with a 6-0 ranking. The Marlin women, 12-3 overall, begin second half competition on Friday, Jan. 20, with a 7 p.m. game at Randolph College, while the men, at 13-1 and ranked No. 2 nationally, still have single games remaining with Guilford College, Bridgewater College, and Eastern Mennonite University before they see foes for the second time this season.
Both VWC programs own traditions of success, achieved at times in very different ways. But, this season there are many similarities between the Marlin teams, beginning with highly motivated head coaches David Macedo (men) and Stephany Dunmyer (women).
"Both teams are enjoying an amazing and huge amount of success this season," said Virginia Wesleyan Athletics Director Joanne Renn. "They share similar team qualities that have propelled both to the top of the ODAC standings. They have competent and consistent leadership from Stephany and David, unselfish play, depth, and both team are extremely quick, which allows the coaching staffs to turn up the heat on defense. They both like up-tempo games and have been so much fun to watch play this year. I see both going deep in the tourney and we will be prepared to host all NCAA events that we are assigned."
Leadership, unselfish, and depth are definitely the key words for both teams, which do not have that one player that opponents can key on. If one Marlin is stopped, there are others who have the ability to step in and get things done.
Macedo also points to personal improvement and embracing the team concept as keys to Virginia Wesleyan's success. His team dropped its season opener on the road, but has won 13 in a row and has been ranked among the nation's top 10 teams all season long. The Marlins started the season at No. 1.
"Our success so far this season has resulted from a steady diet of consistency on both ends of the court, with lots of room for improvement, while some key guys from last year have expanded their roles, like Art Crew (Williamsburg, Va./Lafayette)," said Macedo, the five-time Virginia Coach of the Year who has guided VWC to seven NCAA tournament berths and a national championship in 2006. "I'm really pleased with our togetherness on and off the court. It is amazing how much we can accomplish when nobody cares who gets the credit! That is a big team thing for us."
Senior Donald Vaughn (Woodbridge, Va./Dumfries Potomac), juniors Chris Astorga (Suffolk, Va./Virginia Beach Cape Henry Collegiate) and Chris Teasley (Newport News, Va./Menchville), and sophomore D.J. Woodmore (Virginia Beach/Landstown), last year's national rookie of the year, have all emerged to lead VWC in scoring this season. If one is off, the others are on and pick up significant scoring help from players like junior Tre' Ford (Falls Church, Va./J.E.B. Stuart) and Crew. VWC currently ranks No. 18 nationally in scoring, averarging 85.1 points per game and No. 2 in scoring margin, defeating foes by an average of 21.8 points per outing.
That "team" thinking has also been crucial in the impressive start by the Virginia Wesleyan women. After a 12-14 finish last year, snapping a streak of five consecutive winning years that included three appearances in the ODAC title game, Dunmyer searched for players to help put her program back on track. She knew she had talent in her upperclassmen, but needed a couple "sparkplugs." She ended up with four in Sarah Seipp (Gaithersburg, Md./Gaithersburg), Brittany Glasco (Fredericksburg, Va./Massaponax), Nancy Kelly (Phoenix, Md./Dulaney), and Kerri-Leanne Taylor (Stockport, England/Hill School, Pa.).
"We have a great freshman class that has stepped in and contributed right away, and we have a terrific group of returners that welcomed them with open arms," said Dunmyer. "The ability to mesh so quickly as a group both on and off the court, yet still compete and push each other every day, has played a big role in our success as well."
In fact, two of the rookies, Seipp and Glasco, have emerged as two of the team's leading scorers, while Kelly has supplied key scoring and rebounding, and Taylor has added to VWC's long-range threat. Their abilities have only complemented the leadership of veterans like Kristen Blalock (Suffolk, Va./Portsmouth Christian), Jocelyn Spencer (Newport News, Va./Hampton Roads Academy), Shawnee Lewis (Alexandria, Va./Thomas A. Edison), and Beth Ann Boyce (Colonial Heights, Va./Colonial Heights).
The Marlins are averaging 68.2 points per game, fueled in part by the long-range attack, which has netted 95 triples so far this season. Ten women have connected from behind the arc, led by Seipp with 21, junior Rachael Miller (Sterling, Va./Park View) with 19, and Boyce with 17. VWC ranks No. 44 nationally in triples made.
"We have a number of different players who can step up and make plays for us on both ends of the court," said Dunmyer. "This year's team is completely unselfish and has great team chemistry. They truly believe in the team first mentality, and they don't care who gets the job done or who gets the credit. They know that everyone's role is vital to the team's success. Our depth enables us to play the type of pressure defense that we want to play for 40 minutes."
As both teams look at the remainder of the schedule, they have a common goal...finishing strong, winning a conference title, and qualifying for the NCAA Division III tournament. Sounds simple enough, but the Marlins totally understand the challenges they'll face to get there. No game in the ODAC is an easy game.
"We simply talk about one possession at a time and one game at a time.," said Macedo. "We talk about just getting better each time out and stepping on the court trying to prove we are the best team each night we compete. We never talk about anything else or pressure to perform. Our goals have not changed and we expect to see a team playing its best basketball soon. We want to be that team nobody wants to play!"
VWC's men will compete in five ODAC road games in the coming weeks, but will also have five at home, beginning with Saturday, Jan. 20, when the Marlins host the Quakers of Guilford College at 2 p.m. The Marlin women have it a little tougher, playing four at home and six on the road, including the last four games of the regular season.
As far as Dunmyer is concerned, focus is crucial. One game at a time. One day at a time, on and off the court.
"We are staying focused on the moment and taking every day one day at a time," said Dunmyer. "We know that anyone can beat anyone on a given night, and we just want to remain focused on staying together as a team and leaving it all out on the court. I don't think this group feels any added pressure at this time in the season. We know that we have 10 games left in the regular season, and we expect every game to be a battle."
"We talk about the fact that every day, we have a choice in how we approach every aspect of our lives. We want to be champions in the classroom, on the court, and off the court. We had a team GPA of 3.45 for the fall semester, and we hope to match or better that in the second semester. As far as our on-court program goals, every season our goal is to win an ODAC championship, and that has not changed. This group has shown extraordinary work ethic both in the classroom and on the court, and we have already had some great moments this year. We hope to stay focused on the now, continue to improve, and be playing our best basketball at tournament time."