No. 12 women win OAC; aim for more

It has been in a long-standing belief in sports that defense wins championships.

And this season, the Baldwin Wallace Women’s Basketball team has taken that to heart. Having won the OAC Regular Season Championships and on their second eight-game winning streak of the season, BW has surged to No. 12 in the nation, with just one regular season game left before the OAC tournament. The success of the entire season, coming from an intense defensive effort that has lasted the entire season.

The OAC crown, and celebratory cutting of the nets was done at home on Feb. 19, after the Yellow Jackets trounced Mount Union 80-53. “So proud of these guys,” Head Coach Cheri Harrer said after the game. “We talk all the time about not worrying what the scoreboard says but just to play our game and the scoreboard will eventually take care of itself.” The win marked BW’s ninth regular season title, and first since 2014.


The team went undefeated at home during the regular season, something that hadn’t been done in over 13 years. But even still, the Yellow Jackets know they have to stay focused on every individual game, even their regular season wrap-up against the Otterbein Cardinals as both teams prepare for the OAC Tournament. With the OAC Tournament and NCAA Tournament ahead of BW, Harrer knows this team has something special about them, “They love being together, they’re smiling when they get to practice because they get to be with each other,” Harrer said. “They understand defense is important, they share the ball and if they continue on this path, they can do some truly special things this season.”


The teams’ last three loss or less season came in 2007-08, when the team fell in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the same fate suffered last season.


BW was in a similar situation last season, winning 7-of-8 OAC match ups before the OAC tournament, but were stunned in the first round by Ohio Northern, who defeated BW inside the Ursprung Gymnasium. Harrer knows that the team was motivated this season to avenge that defeat, but the motivation came from what happened after the loss. “Part of the growth was that we earned an at large bid for the NCAAs,” Harrer said. “We got knocked off and it hurt and stuck with them. But then they got that chance to play again and they got a taste of what it is like to win in the NCAA tournament and I think it was less about the heartbreak and more about the idea of let’s make more noise in the NCAA’s this year.”


On the court, BW’s defensive effort has been the shining star this season. The Yellow Jackets are holding opposing teams to just 56 points per game, and their offense is outscoring teams by nearly 15 points per game. The defense has also forced over 100 more turnovers than given up through the course of the season.


But just as the defense is shining, the offense has had their moments as well. Senior Hannah Fecht etched her name in the history books by becoming Harrer’s 12th player to score 1,000 points at BW. Fecht scored her 1,000th points, and then just four days later BW was cutting the nets down, “It’s been special for sure, but just sharing it with my teammates,” Fecht said after the game. “Being with this team has made my fifth-year worth it.”


But Harrer knows that Fecht, and the rest of the senior class, are more than just their on-court production, “They all lead in their own ways,” Harrer said. “We didn’t name captains this year because we didn’t want to stifle any one on our team from leading. We have some under classmen that lead in their own way. Each one is so different.”


The teams biggest test of the season, came on Feb. 12, inside the Ursprung Gymnasium. John Carroll, who is BW’s only OAC loss this season, stormed back in the fourth quarter to tie the game up with less than 4 minutes to go.


The team prevailed though, sinking six free throws in the final 25 seconds to remain unblemished at home, and avoided the season sweep to John Carroll. Harrer said it is those types of games that get you ready for the OAC Tournament, especially when they come in the last month of the season. The win was the sixth victory in BW’s current eight-game winning streak since falling to John Carroll in January. Harrer said that keeping the streak intact going into the tournament is bigger than just having a winning streak, “It’s huge. Our men last year finished fifth in the regular season but got on a roll at the right time,” Harrer said. “Right now, we’re trying to prepare for each game but also rest as much as we can and it’s a tricky thing.”


With the OAC Regular Season title locked up BW will enjoy home court advantage in the OAC tournament. But they know they still have work cut out to make a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. “I think as long as they really love each other and want to be out there together, the sky is the limit,” Harrer said. “You have to get some luck with staying healthy, and the right matchups. There’s a lot that goes into it but hopefully this groups not done yet.”