WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The Whitman College women’s basketball team will fly 2,000 miles across country later this week to compete in the University of Chicago’s Midway Classic. When they get there, the Missionary women will find a surprising number of fans in their rooting section.
Lizzy Washburn, a 5-foot-9 senior forward who led Whitman in scoring and rebounding last season, graduated from high school in Mundelein, Ill., a small community of 32,000 people situated 37 miles north of Chicago. Her parents, Dan and Sandy Washburn, live in Mundelein, and she has a large extended family in the area.
“Lizzy’s family have been great supporters while she’s been here at Whitman,” head coach Michelle Ferenz says. “They’ve flown and followed the team on a regular basis. We’ve had as many as 30 of her relatives and friends at some games.”
A second member of the Whitman squad, 6-foot sophomore Kelsey Krumdieck, also has family ties to the Chicago area. She lives in San Diego, Calif., but both of her parents, Kevin and Julie Krumdieck, are graduates of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her parents are flying from San Diego to Chicago for the weekend games, and she has grandparents and other family who live in the area.
Krumdiek worked herself into a starting role last season as a first-year player, but a late season knee injury required surgery. She continues to rehab her knee and will be playing this weekend.
“For being so far away from campus, we’re going to have a great fan base,” Ferenz says. Other parents flying to Chicago for this weekend’s games are Ed and Michelle Vertatschitsch of Bellevue, Wash., the parents of senior guard Laura Vertatschitsch; Angus Laird of Chico, Calif., the father of junior forward Sarah Laird; and Sharie Higgins of Colorado Springs, Colo., mother of senior guard Megan Higgins.
Trying to schedule early season tournaments near the hometowns of players is always a good idea, Ferenz says. Last season, the Whitman women split a pair of tournament games in Menlo, Calif., which was close to home for both Laird and Anna Stephenson (Chico, Calif.), who graduated last spring. Two seasons ago, the Missionaries posted two wins in a tournament in Colorado Springs, where Higgins played prep ball at the Air Force Academy High School.
At this weekend’s tournament, Whitman plays its first round game against Ohio Wesleyan at 2 p.m. (CST) Saturday. Depending on first-round wins and losses, the Missionaries will play Sunday in either the noon consolation game or the 2 p.m. championship tilt. The other team in the tournament, in addition to the host squad, is St. Norbert College (De Pere, Wisc.).
Dave Holden, Whitman Sports Information,
(509) 527-5902; email@example.com