|Webster can finally practice regularly, and leads the team in four categories, including minutes per game.
Photo by Saundra Baker
By Andrew Lovell
Before the start of every game, Lancaster Bible senior guard Kirsten Webster retreats to the locker room for a moment of quiet prayer.
She reflects, she remembers, and she offers thanks to God, her most enduring source of strength.
"I was sick in bed and couldn't get up, and now I'm here playing 40 minutes a game," Webster said. "God has been so good to me."
Webster, the lone senior on this year's Lancaster Bible women's basketball team, has navigated a long, winding, often painful road to get to where she is now. Webster leads the Chargers in scoring (18.5 points per game), minutes (35.5 per game), assists (79) and steals (50), and ranks among the team leaders in most other categories. Lancaster Bible, fueled by Webster, sophomore guard/forward Caitlin Hickey and junior forward Courtney Goyak, sits alone atop the NEAC South Division at 14-8 (12-1).
Back in 2012, none of this seemed possible. Webster, then a freshman at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., was diagnosed with Lyme disease. The illness sapped her energy, often leaving her bed-ridden and unable to walk. Webster was forced to withdraw from McDaniel and focus on her health.
Webster transferred to Lancaster Bible for the 2013 fall semester, but was again forced to take a year off due to the Lyme effects. Following another year of doctor visits and treatment, Webster finally reached a point where she could resume competitive basketball.
Webster is still on a strict medication regimen and follows a specific diet, and she and third-year head coach Katelyn Vanderhoff maintain close daily communication. Webster's stamina for practices is limited, and she regularly needs extra rest days.
"It's actually incredible the senior year that she's having," Vanderhoff said. "Because in the past two years that I've been here as coach, she really hasn't been able to practice, and has had hundreds of doctor appointments."
In her quiet moments before games, Webster offers her thanks to God and a reminder to herself that she's blessed to be in this situation. Vanderhoff, along with Webster's teammates, consider themselves blessed to have Webster in a Lancaster Bible uniform.
|Vanderhoff challenged her team with a difficult non-conference schedule this year.
Photo by Saundra Baker
Hickey, the team's top three-point shooter, along with the 6-foot-2 Goyak, who is averaging a Division III-best 18.5 rebounds per game, and sophomore guard Kaylee Boger, help Webster shoulder the leadership load. Goyak, in particular, draws attention with her eye-popping rebound totals. As a sophomore transfer last season, she led Division III with 617 rebounds (21.3 per game), becoming just the second player in women's college basketball history to eclipse 600 in a season.
"I've never seen, in my playing and my coaching career, somebody rebound the way she does," Vanderhoff said. "She just has a knack for the ball."
"She literally out-rebounds teams by herself," Webster added. "It blows my mind."
Together on the court, they've helped Lancaster Bible have a deceptively impressive season. On the surface, the Chargers' 14-8 overall record is nothing special, but a quick glance at their schedule reveals a concerted effort to increase the difficulty of their non-conference slate. Games against opponents like Messiah, Juniata, Staten Island and DeSales, while all losses, served a deeper purpose: to challenge Lancaster Bible's players and put them in situations where they could learn and improve.
"We've had good seasons, but we want to push ourselves to the next level and be able to compete," Vanderhoff said. "That's why we put Messiah on our schedule. We want to really be able to compete with those teams."
Against NEAC opponents, Lancaster Bible is 12-1, with its only defeat coming by a single point in a 68-67 road loss to Penn State-Berks.
Lancaster Bible won a combined 44 games over the previous two seasons, but ultimately lost in the NEAC tournament semifinals and title game in 2017 and 2016, respectively. The Chargers' last NCAA berth came during the 2012-13 season, which ended in a first-round loss to a Messiah team that featured Vanderhoff on its roster.
"We really have focused on being the hardest-working team," Webster said. "If each day, we come and be the hardest-working team, then it's going to pay off in the long run, no matter who we play."
Have a story idea? A fun stat? Just want to talk some hoops? I'm always happy to hear from a fellow D-III fan. I can be reached via email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @Andrew_Lovell.