WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The Whitman College women's basketball team can hold its own in the classroom as well as on the basketball floor.
When the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) announced its 2004-05 Academic Top 25 Team Honor Roll last week, Whitman took top honors among all NCAA Div. III schools in the western United States, placing fourth overall in the national rankings.
Coached by Michelle Ferenz, the Whitman women's basketball team concluded its academic year with a combined grade point average (gpa) of 3.539 on a 4.0 scale, finishing less than two-tenths of a percentage point out of the No. 1 spot.
"I am very proud of what our players have accomplished both on the court and in the classroom," Ferenz says. "To be so successful at a demanding academic school such as Whitman, speaks to the quality of student-athletes we have on our team. Our team has represented Whitman College well as athletes, students and people."
Apart from Colorado College, which ranked fifth nationally, the only other school from the western U.S. in the Top 25 is No. 16 University of Puget Sound, one of Whitman's Northwest Conference rivals. The Whitman and Puget Sounds women's teams tied for fourth place in the NWC basketball standings last winter, one season after the two squads shared the conference title.
Anna Stephenson, a 5-foot-10 senior post from Chico, Calif., paced Whitman's academic achievements last year. A biology major, Stephenson had a 3.924 gpa for the two semesters, graduating magna cum laude in May with honors in her major.
Lizzy Washburn, a 5-foot-9 junior forward from Mundelein, Ill., also scored well in the classroom, posting a gpa of 3.917 for her two semesters. A mathematics major, Washburn led her Whitman teammates in scoring and rebounding, and she was named to the All-NWC Second Team at season's end.
Laura Vertatschitsch, a physics-mathematics major and 5-foot-7 junior guard from Issaquah, Wash., contributed a 3.728 grade point average last year. On the basketball floor, she earned All-NWC Honorable Mention recognition for a second consecutive season, averaging 10.2 points per game.
Three other Whitman players earned grade point averages above 3.60 last season. Topping this trio with a 3.645 gpa was Katie Patneaude (Seattle, Wash.), a sophomore guard who averaged 9.5 points and earned All-NWC First-Team honors two seasons ago. Next in line were senior guard Lindsey Gehrig (Bellevue, Wash.) at 3.637 and first-year forward Kelsey Krumdieck (San Diego, Calif.) at 3.615.
Others on last season's Whitman roster were juniors Megan Higgins (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Laura Sprague (Soda Springs, Idaho), sophomores Sarah Laird (Los Altos, Calif.) and Sarah Nicholes (Portland, Ore.), and first-year player Kristina Francis (Blaine, Wash.).
"I am not surprised that our players have done so well in the classroom," Ferenz adds. "Each of them takes their academics very seriously and works hard in the classroom. They knew that by coming to Whitman they would be challenged to develop intellectually and athletically. They have embraced these challenges and done very well."
Dave Holden, Whitman Sports Information,
(509) 527-5902; email@example.com