Jennifer Reimer is just eight games into her first year as head coach of the Case Western Reserve University women's basketball team, but already she has her team playing a style of basketball that could make this winter an exciting one in University Circle.
Recovering from a 1-3 start, the Spartans have won four in a row and have shown that they are a much-improved squad from last year and should be ready for the tough schedule that lies ahead.
"I think all of these tough games early on our schedule are important for us, so we are ready for the tough conference schedule later on," Reimer said. "Playing good opponents will give us the kind of experience we need to learn from so we don't make the same mistakes we are making now down the stretch."
During Thanksgiving weekend, Reimer and the Spartans traveled to Kentucky for the Thomas More Shootout where they went 1-1, claiming a victory over Centre College, while losing a closely contested 70-63 contest to defending NCAA Division III national champions and currently eighth-ranked DePauw University.
"Two weekends ago in Kentucky was really big for us," Reimer said. "We really improved on a lot the facets of our defense and we played pretty consistently all weekend. Coming back from that tournament, we had a good practice and it's starting to feel like we're starting to practice at a consistent and high level."
The team's schedule won't get any easier when they return from the Surf City Classic in Orange County, Calif., December 27 to January 3. The team begin its UAA schedule on January 12 when it faces nationally ranked opponents such as New York University (No. 5), Washington University (No. 14), the University of Rochester (No. 16) and the University of Chicago (No. 21).
Washington lost to DePauw in the title game a year ago and NYU also advanced to the Final Four. However, Reimer believes her team will be up to the challenge of competing with the nation's best this season.
"I think we are still continuing to get adjusted to one another, but I think it's coming along at the right pace," Reimer said. "At Allegheny (her previous coaching stop), we didn't go up against the nationally ranked teams night after night, but that's part of the reason I wanted to be a part of Case Western Reserve. It's fun to scout those teams and learn more about those teams and work at a higher level."
The Spartans have had a solid combination of scoring, both inside and on the perimeter from senior captains Ashley Horton (Akron, Ohio) and Mary Herendeen (Austinburg, Ohio). Sophomore Ashleigh Tondo (McDonald, Ohio) has done a solid job of running the point in only her second season as a Lady Spartan.
Horton recorded four consecutive double-doubles from November 24 through December 1 and on November 26 was named the UAA co-athlete of the Week. Horton is averaging 15.0 points per game and 10.0 rebounds per game and has been a force inside for the Spartans.
"Ashley has been very consistent in her scoring, but the way she rebounded this weekend is something we're going to see more of this year," Reimer said. "Everyone is really stepping it up. It's nice to see our captains leading the way."
Herendeen has started her senior campaign by drilling 20 three-pointers in eight games, shooting 39.2 percent from beyond the arc, while averaging 12.9 points per game.
"Mary has shown us she has the ability to create her own shots," Reimer said. "I knew she could come off screens and hit an open shot, but she's done things off the dribble with defenders keying on her that have been really nice to see."
At the point, Tondo has averaged 6.4 assists per game thus far and has impressed with her ability to direct the team as only a sophomore.
"(Ashleigh) is an amazing athlete," Reimer said. "She's doing such a great job at the point and not only is she a good player now, but she has shown the potential to become an even better player."
The Spartans next game will be on December 30 in the Surf City Classic when they take on tournament host Concordia University at 2 p.m. in California. At noon on December 31, the team will take on Widener University.
Read Reimer's blog.
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