Women's Basketball Looks to Exceed Expectations in 2016-17

Photo Credit: Joe Maiorana
Photo Credit: Joe Maiorana
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Women's Basketball has been one of Capital University's most successful programs over the course of its history and it looks to continue that notion in 2016. Capital opens its brand new campaign tomorrow night at Wittenberg University. The game will mark the first step in proving the team's naysayers wrong after being predicted to finish fifth in the OAC's Coaches Poll.

2015-16 In Review

Last season, the Crusaders registered another 20-win season with a 20-7 record overall while finishing 12-6 in the Ohio Athletic Conference. Capital jumped out to a red-hot start, winning 15 of its first 17 games, including an eight-game winning streak that saw signature wins over No. 11 Calvin College in overtime and conference opponent Ohio Northern University, also ranked 11th at the time.

Capital's successful regular season earned it a first-round bye before its meeting with Wilmington College in the second round. The Crusaders bested the Quakers, 71-64, setting up a quarterfinal matchup at The University of Mount Union. Capital had a disappointing end to an outstanding season with an 81-72 loss to the Purple Raiders.

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Returning Personnel

The Purple and White returns just nine players from a season ago, including top bench players in Colleen Fondessy (Fostoria, Ohio), Annika Wachtman (Upper Arlington, Ohio), and Chelsea Pla (Macedonia, Ohio). Fondessy, the only senior on this year's roster, earned valuable experience last season after being thrown into the starting lineup when a Capital starter went down with an injury. She rose to the occasion providing the team with 3.6 rebounds per game and 162 points.

Wachtman provided Capital with athleticism and quickness off the bench, appearing in every game in 2016 while averaging 21.3 minutes per contest. She looks to improve this season after posting career highs in almost every category in last year. Wachtman totaled 149 points, 50 made field goals, and a 75.8 free throw percentage, fourth on the team.

Pla saw action in every game last season and figures to use that experience to contribute to the team in 2016. As a sophomore, she compiled 65 points, 24 field goals, and 17 free throws in 237 minutes.

Erin Risner (Canfield, Ohio) and Emily Ondo (Pittsburgh, Pa.) are also expected to contribute as sophomores. Risner earned time in 20 games last season while Ondo played in just five contests but has shown to be a capable player in her limited action.

Jeffers Returns For 31st Season

Dixie Jeffers enters her 31st season as the head coach for Capital's women's basketball program. Jeffers has established herself has one of the top coaches in the history of the OAC. In 2015, Jeffers earned win number 654 of her career, putting her at the top of the all-time wins list for OAC coaches. Jeffers tightened her grip on the record, bringing her win total to 681.

Last March, Capital hosted the Division III national semifinals after members of the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Committee determined that the city of Columbus, and Capital was a fitting place to host one of the biggest women's basketball events of the year. Jeffers was at the forefront of the process and played a vital role in bringing the honor to the Cap Center.

She has led the Crusaders to OAC tournament berths the last two seasons, reaching the OAC championship in 2014-15 and the semifinal game last season. It has been three years since Capital earned an NCAA Tournament appearance.

2016-17 Regular Season Outlook

The Crusaders open the season with three games on the road, two of which will take place at the College of Wooster. The final game of November marks Capital's home opener as the team takes on Mt. Aloysius College on Saturday, Nov. 26.

Once the calendar turns to December, the Purple and White begins conference play with a home date against last season's regular season champion, Ohio Northern University.

On Dec. 10, the Crusaders will begin a six-game home stand, beginning with archrival Otterbein University. The stretch will also include Capital's annual Marriot Columbus Airport Tournament on Dec 29. The tournament will feature Case Western Reserve University, The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and Olivet College. Capital will take on Olivet on day one of the tournament, with the consolation and championship games being played the following day.

The second half of the season consists of primarily road games for Capital as it has a chance to avenge last season's semifinal game with a matchup against The University of Mount Union (1/14). Six of Capital's final seven games will be against qualifiers for the 2016 OAC tournament. The stretch is highlighted by games at Otterbein (1/21), at Ohio Northern (1/28), and last season's tournament runner-up in Baldwin Wallace University (2/11).

 The Crusaders were picked to tie for fifth in the OAC in the Coaches Poll, accumulating 44 points.

The Purple and White's season opening game at Wittenberg is set to tip off tomorrow, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m.