Racking up the rebounds

More news about: Wells
Ashley Roser found the opportunity to play and excel in two sports at Wells for Wells, which had always had women but never had a women's basketball team until 2010.
Wells athletics photo

Mike O'Brien knew he was facing an uphill battle. Starting a college sports program from scratch, after all, is as daunting as it is exciting.

His first recruits would face unique pressures and requirements that most incoming freshmen wouldn't. That alone might dissuade many players from joining a first-year program.

But not Ashley Roser. In fact, when O'Brien, hired in December 2009, as the first women's basketball coach at tiny Wells College in Aurora, N.Y., targeted Roser as his top prospect and first building block, Roser found herself drawn to the situation.

"Actually it was quite appealing to me," Roser said. "I wanted to start something new, help build a program, be the foundation. It was pretty neat."

Roser, a team captain from the moment she stepped foot on Wells' campus, brought everything O'Brien was looking for -- length on defense, athletic ability and the versatility to play every position from point guard to center.

Roser averaged 21.9 points and 13.7 rebounds per game while leading the Express in nearly every statistical category her freshman year in 2010-11, though the team finished just 4-21. As a sophomore, Roser again dominated, putting up averages of 18.7 points and 14.4 rebounds per game, while the team improved to 8-17.

This season, Roser is averaging 19.5 points and an NCAA-best 16.3 rebounds per game, and the team has continued its upward trend -- the Express sit at 12-10 overall (11-3 NEAC) and have already clinched their first berth in the conference tournament. Roser's list of individual achievements is incredible, if not overwhelming.

In 66 career games, Roser has recorded 56 double-doubles. Her 18 double-doubles this season lead the country. She has seven games with at least 20 rebounds this season, including her last three. In a 69-57 win against Cazenovia on Jan. 30, Roser finished with 15 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks to tally her first triple-double. She also ranks among the top 30 nationally in scoring and blocks.

Roser checks in at 5-foot-10, so she isn't able to pile up rebounds simply because of height. O'Brien says it's an innate ability to read the ball off the rim. Roser credits the trampoline she spent hours on as a child in the backyard of her Taberg, N.Y., home.

"Rebounding's always been one of my favorite parts of the game," Roser said. "It's just been a natural timing thing, I think, because I'm not really tall or anything."

Roser, who began playing basketball in third grade, has seemingly always excelled on the court. But in her first year at Camden High School, with basketball still months away, Roser opted to try out for the soccer team in the fall "on a whim," as she recalls.

The team was looking for a starting goalkeeper that season and Roser turned out to have a knack for it. She played for the next four years, before ultimately deciding to focus strictly on basketball at Wells.

Like Roser's high school team six years ago, the Wells women's soccer team was actively looking for a new starting goalkeeper this past fall. O'Brien, remembering Roser's soccer background, contacted soccer coach Jamie Trudeau. Roser quickly shook off any rust and took hold of the starting job.

"I was tremendously nervous," O'Brien said with a laugh. "... But I knew she could be helpful to another program. And really, at the Division III level for us, a lot of it had to do with Ashley's enjoyment overall as a student-athlete. That was a big factor for her, and it's rare to have two-sport athletes playing at the Division III level, even though that's probably where it's most accepted, compared to Division II and Division I."

Playing goalie and playing basketball have more in common than one might think.
Wells athletics photo

Roser started every game as the soccer team finished 7-12. She ranked second in the NEAC and seventh nationally with 191 saves. Roser said basketball and soccer, particularly as a goalie, have many similarities.

"A lot of it is footwork," Roser said. "Especially being a goalkeeper, where we work a lot on footwork and hand-eye coordination with the ball."

O'Brien gushes when talking about Roser -- not just her on-court abilities and accomplishments, but her off-the-court growth. O'Brien calls Roser "unselfish" and "a rock" for her teammates to lean on. 

Roser, a biology major, said she plans to go to graduate school after her undergraduate studies, with an eye toward working either in a clinical lab or as a physician assistant. She said she'd also like to coach basketball at some point in the future.

Perhaps Roser should also consider some part-time work in construction. After all, she's already helped successfully lay the foundation for a college basketball team. 

Men's Northeast: NESCAC race heating up

A quick glance at the latest D3hoops.com Top 25 poll will tell you all you need to know about the NESCAC -- some of the best teams in the country call it home.

This is hardly breaking news. The NESCAC has long produced strong teams that routinely go deep in the NCAA tournament. Right now, Middlebury, Amherst and Williams are all ranked in the top 10, and all look capable of postseason success.

But before we can discuss the NCAA tournament, the dust has to settle from a wild NESCAC race. Amherst and Williams sit atop with the conference with matching 20-2 overall records and 8-0 conference records. Middlebury (20-1, 7-1) is just one game back, its only loss coming by a point to Williams.

Amherst wraps up its regular season with road games against Williams and Middlebury on Friday and Saturday, respectively. This means that any of the three teams could finish anywhere from No. 1 to No. 3 in the conference tournament seeding. Amherst edged Middlebury 71-69 in last season's conference tournament title game, but both teams ended up losing in the Sweet 16.

Watch for a frenetic finish to the regular season and, inevitably, in the NESCAC tournament. 

Men's East: Hobart celebrates historic night

Hobart's 85-82 win against Union in double overtime Tuesday night is a game coach Mike Neer, senior Stefan Thompson and junior Richie Bonney will remember for a long time.

Neer picked up his 600th career coaching win, a plateau that only 13 other coaches have reached in Division III history. Thompson scored a career-high 30 points in the win, which helped him eclipse the 1,500-point mark for his career. Thompson is just the seventh Hobart to reach that figure.

Bonney could very well join that elite group next year, but Tuesday night he took the first step by reaching the 1,000-point plateau. Bonney is the 25th Hobart to reach that total.

Perhaps overshadowed by the trio of milestones is the outcome of the game -- a crucial conference win for Liberty League-leading Hobart. The Statesmen swept the season series with Union and hold a one and a half game lead in the conference standings.

Overall, Hobart has won six straight and finishes its regular season by playing five of the six worst teams in the conference. The table appears set for another NCAA tournament run.

Women's Northeast/East: Hartwick's Dumas turning heads

Hartwick's run to the NCAA tournament last season was a great story. It seems that Brittney Dumas wants to write a sequel.

Dumas, a freshman, has been nothing short of spectacular in leading the Hawks to another strong season. The first-year forward leads the team in scoring (14. PPG), field-goal percentage (53.3) and blocks (12), and is second in rebounding (6.0 RPG). She's also won Empire 8 Rookie of the Week honors four times this season.

Dumas, who has scored in double figures in her last 11 games, has been a key addition to a squad that boasts established junior standouts in Kate Purcell and Maria Foglia. Together, the trio forms one of the most potent in the East region.

Hartwick, after a 22-6 campaign last season, is 16-5 this season with four regular-season games left. Hartwick trails Ithaca by just one game in the Empire 8 standings, and the two meet again Friday in Oneonta, NY. Ithaca won the first meeting 53-45 on Jan. 26.

Top 25: WPI men climb to No. 2

WPI, the final remaining undefeated men's team in Division III, climbed from No. 4 to No. 2 in this week's D3hoops.com Top 25 poll. Rochester, after its loss to NYU, slipped from No. 1 to No. 4.

Middlebury (No. 5), Amherst (No. 6) and Williams (No. 7) all cracked the top 10. Rhode Island College (No. 18), MIT (No. 23), Cortland State (No. 24) and Stevens (No. 25) were also ranked, giving the Northeast/East regions nine of this week's 25 ranked teams. Brandeis and Albertus Magnus also received votes.

Amherst again led all Northeast/East teams in the D3hoops.com Women's Top 25 poll, checking in at No. 3 this week. Tufts (No. 6), Southern Maine (No. 14) and Babson (No. 22) were also ranked.

Williams, New Paltz State, Bridgewater State and Smith all received votes.

Quick hits

Ryan Kolb scored 17 points and Sam Longwell added 16 points as WPI routed Coast Guard 89-53 on Saturday. WPI has won all 21 of its games so far this season and holds a one-game lead in the NEWMAC standings. ... Matt Hart went 4-for-7 from 3-point range and scored a game-high 23 points in Hamilton's 62-57 win against Wesleyan on Sunday. Hamilton won its fourth straight and improved to 3-5 in the NESCAC. ... Daris Cosby tallied 16 points and six rebounds to lead Daniel Webster to a 55-52 win against NECC foe Becker on Tuesday. Daniel Webster improved to 6-7 in conference play. ... Garrett Clemmer scored 20 points and Ben Johnson added 18 points and 11 rebounds as Maine-Farmington knocked off New England College 85-76 on Saturday. Maine-Farmington snapped a two-game losing skid and improved to an NAC-best 11-3 in conference play. ... Derek Mayo poured in 25 points to lift Wentworth to an 80-67 win vs. Nichols on Saturday. The Leopards won their fifth straight and pulled into a second-place tie with Gordon in the CCC standings. ... Curtis Pierce exploded for 27 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in Potsdam State's 73-66 win over Oneonta State on Saturday. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Bears. ... Meghan Fiore and Mary Miceli each scored 14 points as the Utica women downed Hartwick 64-61 on Tuesday. The Pioneers improved to 11-11 overall and 7-5 in the Empire 8. ... Jennifer Ruys scored 18 points and Tori Brillaud added seven points and 18 rebounds in Suffolk's 65-39 rout of Johnson and Wales on Tuesday. Suffolk improved to 8-1 in GNAC play, which trails only Emmanuel (9-0 GNAC). ... Emily Savino collected 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in Western New England's 62-52 win against Endicott on Saturday. Western New England is tied with Roger Williams behind undefeated CCC leader University of New England.

Contact me

Whether you have an interesting story idea, know of a player or coach approaching a career milestone, or just want to talk basketball, I want to hear it. Please reach out to me at andrew.lovell@d3sports.com. You can also follow me on Twitter (@andrew_lovell).

Justin Goldberg

Justin Goldberg is a newspaper copy editor and freelance writer in southwest Virginia. Originally from New York, he played Division III basketball in that colder region of the country, but moved to Virginia in 2008 to earn his M.F.A. in creative writing. He has written for multiple publications, including C-VILLE Weekly and The Roanoke Times. He is happy to join D3hoops.com for his first season as the Around the East-Northeast columnist.