DES MOINES – Three Iowa Wesleyan College women’s basketball players as well as Head Coach Steve Williamson were honored on Wednesday as the Midwest Collegiate Conference announced its all-conference team and postseason awards for the 2009 season.
Rachel Mitchell (Sr.-Des Moines, Iowa) and Ali DeVries (Jr.-Bellevue, Iowa) both were named All-MCC performers for the season, while Heather Larson (Jr.-Canton, Ill.) received Honorable Mention recognition. In addition to those three players, Williamson was also named the league’s Coach of the Year, the second time in four years he has been honored with the award voted on by his peer coaches in the conference.
Mitchell was named to the all-conference first team for the third straight year and is the first player in IWC women’s basketball history ever to accomplish that feat. The 5-6 senior guard has been the engine that drives the team since transferring in for her sophomore year, and this year was no different.
Mitchell is averaging 10.2 points, 5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, ranking second in the conference in that last category. She shot 72.8% from the free throw line and also averaged 1.6 steals per game, and ranked among the conference leaders in all five categories. Mitchell also has moved up to second on the all-time school assists list this year, and with 398 assists has a chance to break the record of 404 held by Erin McFadden (2002-04).
“Rachel is easily one of the best players in our league,” Williamson said. “She does so much for our team that doesn’t show up on stat sheets. Rachel is the type of player that make her other teammates better because she creates so many scoring opportunities for them with her penetration.”
DeVries was named First Team All-MCC for the second straight year, overcame a slow start to the season to average 11.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. The 5-7 junior this year broke the school record for career three-point field goals made and finished second in the conference in three-point field goal percentage, coming in only behind Larson in that category. She also accumulated 46 steals and often took on the assignment of guarding the opponent’s best perimeter player.
“Ali is a true competitor who plays the game with a lot of passion and emotion,” Williamson said. “She is a great shooter and a great defender. Ali takes a lot of pride in guarding the other team’s best offensive guard and limiting what that player does. She has held a lot of the top scores in our league way below their averages.”
Larson received Honorable Mention honors in her first season after transferring in from Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Ill. The 5-10 forward/guard led IWC in scoring at 12.6 points per game and developed into the deadliest sniper in the conference, leading the league and ranking 11th nationally by making 44.8% of her three-point shots. She also shot 48.4% from the floor overall, ranking eighth in the MCC in that category despite more than 2/3 of her shots coming from behind the three-point line.
Larson picked up her game as the season went on, averaging 15.8 points in the Tigers’ last 13 games, a stretch in which the team has won 12 of 13. She also averaged 4.8 rebounds per game for the year, ranking third on the team in that category as well.
“Heather had a very good first year in our program,” Williamson said. “She is arguably the best shooter in our conference (and in) numerous games she hit some very big shots for us at critical times. “Her ability to shoot the basketball really opened up things for other players and made it difficult for teams to match up with us.”
The orchestrator of it all was Williamson, who continues to lead the Tiger program to unprecedented levels of success. IWC won the MCC with a 14-2 conference record and is 22-9 overall, and this season recorded its fourth 20-win season in his five years as head coach. Williamson has accounted for four of the five 20-win seasons in school history and has won 99 games in five seasons. He is the second-winningest coach in school history and will be going for his 100th career win next week in the first round of the national tournament.
Wesleyan has won two regular season titles and three conference tournament championship in the past four years, and this season the Tigers swept both titles in the same season for the second time in four years. IWC also has finished undefeated at home at Ruble Arena the past two years and currently has a 25-game winning streak at home. All of this has come after a string of 19 straight losing seasons for the program, which was snapped in 2005-06 when Williamson won his first MCC Coach of the Year honor.
“Being named Coach of the Year was a great honor,” he said. “I feel there are some very good coaches in this conference and to have them vote me Coach of the Year means a lot. I have been fortunate to have great players that are great competitors and have been fun to coach the year.
“This award is more of a reflection on the players and what they have accomplished this season. I’m very proud of them and how they fought threw some hard times this season to qualify for the national tournament.”
St. Ambrose University sophomore forward Ali Dolphin was named the MCC Player of the Year. Mount Mercy College junior forward Shanda Novak was named Newcomer of the Year.
Wesleyan will find out Thursday its first round opponent in the NAIA Division II National Championships in Sioux City, Iowa. IWC has a 1-2 record in its two previous appearances in the national tourney. In their last appearance in 2007 the Tigers advanced to the Sweet 16, defeating Menlo (Calif.) College before losing to Taylor (Ind.) University.
For more information regarding the IWC basketball programs or any of the Tiger athletic teams, contact sports information director Adam Glatczak (319-385-6306 phone; 319-385-6384 FAX; firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail) or log on to IWC's athletics web site at www.iwc.edu/athletics.
MCC All-Conference Team