Transylvania: New style, same results

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Katelyn Smith and her teammates have helped Transylvania make the transition to a new head coach look easy.
Transylvania athletics photo

The Transylvania women’s basketball team entered the 2014-15 season as the two-time defending HCAC champions.

But even though they have had recent success and a core of talented players, the team needed to adjust to the style that new coach Juli Fulks brought to the program.

The Pioneers have made that adjustment. And at 20-1 overall and undefeated through 14 HCAC games, 15th-ranked Transylvania is one win away from securing at least a share of its third-straight league title.

Even though the Pioneers’ record is impressive, junior guard Katelyn Smith said it took some time to become get to know Fulks after the coach was hired this summer.

“It was hard to adjust to at first,” said Smith, who is Transylvania’s leading scorer at 19.6 points per game this season. “But now that we’re into the season and are really used to her system, I think everybody is really happy and liking the way she does things.”

Fulks, who was the head coach at Lewis and Clark for 10 seasons before succeeding Greg Todd at Transylvania, said she worked with her staff to help prepare the players for the change before the season got under way.

“I think we spent the beginning of the year, before basketball started, really working on getting to know them, them getting to know me and setting up some expectations so they knew what they were getting themselves into and got comfortable with it,” Fulks said.

The coach noted that having mature players like Smith, two-time HCAC player of the year Nicole Coffman, Jordin Fender and Alex McKenzie helped the transition.

The team also benefited from a trip to Canada during the preseason. The team voyage, which was planned before Fulks’ arrival, cancelled and then rescheduled, allowed the coaches to get to know the players and allowed the women on the team to get a feel for what the season had in store.

“We got to start practicing a couple weeks earlier and that really helped us get used to a new coach and a new system,” said Smith.

“I give them a ton of credit. It has gone, I think, as smooth as it could possibly go,” Fulks said.

Transylvania won its first eight games of the season before suffering a 74-59 setback to Maryville (Tenn.) while hosting the Pat Deacon Classic in December.

But since that loss, the Pioneers have reeled off 12 consecutive victories, including a perfect 9-0 record in the month of January.

“I think in the Maryville game we experienced being down,” Smith said. “I think that kind of caught us by surprise. We didn’t know how to handle it. We’ve experienced games like that after the Maryville game, and we were a lot more calm and collected, and we were able to calm down and come back to get the win.”

“It just helped us keep our sense of urgency really high,” Fulks added. “We had a lot of reasons to feel good about things. I think it was a good reminder that we had pieces that we needed to get better at.”

Transylvania has won 11 HCAC conference games during its current winning streak, improving its conference mark to 14-0.

The Pioneers would clinch a share of the regular season conference title with one more win. They get their first chance vs. Franklin this week.

Smith credits the team’s success to a strong chemistry on and off the court.

Fulks points to an improvement in rebounding, particularly on the offensive glass, as a key factor for this season’s fortune.

“When you run into a team that shoots the ball well, the only way you can win the game is to find more possessions,” Fulks said. “Really, rebounding has been saving us on the offensive end.”

The Pioneers can score too.

Smith eclipsed the 1,000-point mark earlier this season, Coffman became the program’s all-time leading scorer and on Saturday Alex McKenzie went over 1,000 points as well.

“I’m losing more basketballs this year than ever before,” Fulks said, referring to the keepsakes awarded to players for scoring achievements.

“The whole point of the offense is to create an advantage and make the defense choose, so they’re all getting really good looks,” the coach added. “They really value sharing the ball and they understand what good looks are for us. It puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”

Smith is leading the way this season, helping the team average more than 75 points per game.

“Katelyn is honestly the most pure scorer I’ve ever coached,” Fulks said. “She just has an ability.”

With a conference championship in sight, Smith said she and her teammates have not lost sight of their goals. Transylvania would like to repeat as the HCAC tournament champs and advance to the second weekend of the national tourney – and perhaps further.

“When Coach Fulks came in, she definitely made it apparent that she definitely wanted to win another conference title, but she also wanted us to make a run in the NCAA Tournament,” Smith said. “I think we’re all really focused on that and we all have that expectation going into the final stretch of the season.”

Fulks likes the excitement and enthusiasm her players currently have despite grinding through an arduous slate of games. She believes the players’ competitiveness will continue to drive the team.

Smith sees a lot of potential in her teammates as well.

“I think that this year, we have a new level of discipline that we didn’t really have in the past,” Smith said. “I think that’s going to take us a long way.”

Caltech goes back-to-back

After snapping a 55-game SCIAC losing streak with a 49-47 win over Redlands on Feb. 3, the Caltech men’s basketball team won again Saturday.

The 92-77 win over Whittier marks the first time Caltech has won back-to-back contests since the 1953-54 season – the same year the Beavers won the SCIAC championship.

Caltech did record consecutive conference victories in 1960-61, but there was a non-conference loss in between the two wins.

Nasser Al-Rayes scored 22 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, doled out six assists and registered six blocks in the Beavers’ win over Whittier – all career-high totals. Andrew Hogue added 14 points, 12 boards and six assists.

“These two wins are big for us, big for our Caltech community and big for the department,” head coach Oliver Eslinger said in a Caltech news release. “Still, we want to stay even-keeled and continue to progress.”

Caltech, which also defeated Mount Aloysius in December, is now 3-17 overall and 2-9 in SCIAC competition.

1,000 points

Ty Sabin became a 1,000-point scorer faster than anyone else in the 116-year history of Ripon basketball when the sophomore surpassed the career scoring mark in an 82-72 win over Carroll Feb. 4. Sabin, who now has 1,052 points, broke the 1,000-point barrier in just his 43rd career game.

Just three days later, Kyle Loughrin became the 30th player in Ripon history to score 1,000 points. He had 13 points in the Red Hawks’ 64-57 win over Cornell to accomplish the scoring feat. He now has 1,009 career points.

Anderson’s Max Mollaun became the 34th player in program history to score 1,000 points. He surpassed the milestone during the Ravens’ 89-76 win over Franklin on Jan. 31 and now has 1,049 points in his career.

Defiance’s Bernard Edwards scored 30 points, including his 1,000th point, during an 88-56 win over Rose-Hulman Jan. 31. Now with 1,061 career points, he is the 47th men’s basketball player to score 1,000 points for the Yellow Jackets.

Ryan DePouw of Lawrence pushed his career scoring total to 1,001 points while posting a season-high 26 in a 100-67 win over Illinois College. He is the 22nd player in Lawrence program history to surpass the 1,000-point mark.

Minnesota-Morris’ RJ Dean scored his 1,000th point during the Cougars’ 78-61 win over North Central (Minn.) on Jan. 30.

Junior Rachel Parupsky scored 15 points in Bethel’s 90-77 win over St. Catherine’s Jan. 28, making her the second fastest player in the women’s basketball program’s history to reach 1,000 points. She currently has 1,069.

Where they rank

UW-Whitewater and St Thomas are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, again this week in the men’s Top 25 poll. The Warhawks received 14 first place votes while the Tommies collected five first place votes, coming within 12 points of the top spot.

St. Norbert moved up two spots to No. 7 this week. Augustana slipped to No. 11 and is followed closely by No. 12 UW-Stevens Point.

St. Olaf rose six places to No. 14, and Chapman moved up four spots to No. 18. No. 21 Whitworth, No. 24 Illinois Wesleyan and No. 25 Elmhurst round out the ranked teams in the Region.

North Central (Ill.) (10) and Cal Lutheran (3) received votes.

The St. Thomas women’s basketball team moved into the No. 2 spot in this week’s Top 25, receiving three first place votes. George Fox also received three first place votes and is ranked No. 3.

Transylvania and Wheaton (Ill.) will spend another week ranked Nos. 15 and 16, respectively. Whitworth and UW-Oshkosh each dropped slightly, checking in at Nos. 19 and 20, respectively.

Puget Sound is ranked No. 22 and North Central (Ill.) is No. 23.

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (8) and Bethel (1) received votes this week.

Check in

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Josh Smith

Josh Smith covers high school and Division III athletics for the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wis. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and contributes to multiple publications in addition to his duties at the Daily Union, including beginning in 2012. He graduated from UW-Whitewater with a degree in print journalism. Around the West for