It is no secret that I slacked a bit over the last couple of weeks. Between a late-winter break vacation and settling in for the new semester, I slacked on my content. So, to make up for it, we’re giving you a little extra this week. With a little over half of the conference slate in the books, we’re going to take a look at the front runners in the conference award categories.
NESCAC Player of the Year: Williams’ Claire Baecher
Of all of the season-long awards, this one may be the most up for grabs due to Baecher’s injury, which has kept her out of the teams past three games. But if she returns, it is hard to make the case for anyone else. Top four in the league in scoring with 15.3 per game, she can get points from just about anywhere on the floor. In fact, she is in the top seven in the league in the big three shooting categories: field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free-throw percentage.
But what really sets her apart is her play when the ball isn’t in her hands. She is third in the league in rebounds at 7.5 per game, and second in defensive rebounds. But where she really stands out defensively is in the paint, where she is averaging 3.81 per game, nearly two more per game than anyone else in the conference. Tufts’ Hayley Kanner—second in the league in blocks—is closer to 15th-place Tracy Borsinger than Baecher. Clearly she has established herself as the conference’s biggest force in the paint this year.
If Baecher doesn’t make it back, Conn. College’s Tara Gabelman is probably the leading candidate. She is the only player in the league averaging a double-double with 15.9 points and 10.5 rebounds. Bowdoin’s Jill Henrickson, the NESCAC’s leading scorer and second in steals, rounds out the main candidates.
NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year: Tufts’ Tiffany Kornegay
For the past three seasons, the Jumbos have taken home every defensive player of the year award, and I don’t expect that to end this season. The 5-foot-6 guard is second in the NESCAC in rebounds at 7.9 per game fourth in steals at 2.7 per game. In conference she has been even better: She is the leading steals-getter and second in boards.
But the biggest measure of her defensive prowess may come in what people don’t do against her. So far, she has matched up with three guards in the top 10 in scoring in the NESCAC: Henrickson, Jenn Shinall and Jill Greenberg. The three combine to score 14.1 points per game. With Kornegay in the mix, they managed just 9.3, and that’s even with Henrikson having a rather big game. She can take star players out of games, and that’s what earns her the award.
The other major candidate would be Baecher, depending on whether she stays healthy and if she win Player of the Year.
NESCAC Rookie of the Year: Amherst’s Megan Robertson
Not much competition for this award. Robertson is the only freshman in the top 30 in the league in scoring or the top 20 in the league in rebounds. She is particularly dangerous crashing the offensive glass, and her 3.83 per game is second in the league. Though she gets her minutes off the bench, her contributions have been especially valuable for a Lord Jeffs side that has lost much of its height over the last couple of years. This award should be all but in the bag.
If you are really looking for another candidate, Tufts’ Kelsey Morehead may fit the bill. After a fast start, her numbers have cooled down a bit, but she is still a freshman starting point guard–a tall task for any first year–and 15th in the league in assists. While she will likely come up short this year, expect a lot from her down the line.
NESCAC Coach of the Year: Conn. College’s Brian Wilson
Wilson should be commended for his near perfect handling of his team’s situation over the past two years. When Shinall and Gabelmann left the team days after being arrested for possession of marijuana, Wilson had his work cut out for him. But after the Camels stumbled to a 1-8 finish in the 2010-2011 season, his work was just beginning. In less than a year, Wilson has managed to reincorporate the pair into the team, coach them both into all-conference caliber players, build up chemistry and confidence across his whole squad, and march them to a 4-2 record in the NESCAC so far that includes a victory over perennial powerhouse Williams. There is no other story in the conference that can even begin to compete with such a turn around.
NESCAC First Team
Forward Claire Baecher
Forward Tara Gabelmann
Guard Jill Henrickson
Guard Jenn Shinall
Guard Jill Greenberg