Thomas More Eyes Ninth-Straight PAC Crown

By John D’Abruzzo

The coaches have spoken.

With nine of 10 first-place votes, Thomas More College’s women’s basketball team was selected as the preseason favorite in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. Voted on by the conference’s head coaches, the PAC released its annual poll Nov. 13, and the eight-time defending Saints once again headlined the picks.

“Being picked No. 1 in the preseason poll by our fellow coaches is a great honor for our team and our program,” said Thomas More head coach Jeff Hans, who is back for his fourth season. “But it’s not any indication of where we’ll stand at the end of the year.”

Thomas More is ranked No. 2 in the USA Today’s Division III Top 25 Coaches’ Poll as well as listed No. 3 on the current Women’s Top 25.

Thomas More is coming off a pretty impressive season. Last year, the Saints posted a most-impressive and program-best 31-1 overall record as well as made its first appearance in the sectional finals of the NCAA Division III Championship.

“We have a growling schedule every night with a lot of good players in our league,” Hans said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge.

“Our goals are to get better every day and work together to develop our chemistry that’s needed to finish on top of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.”


Thomas More junior Sydney Moss

Sydney Moss (St. Albans, W.Va.), a 5-foot-10 guard/forward, returns for her junior year. Moss is the reigning PAC Player of the Year and earned three Division III National Player of the Year awards last season after averaging close to 30 points a game as a sophomore. She also was named the 2014-15 DIII News Preseason National Player of the Year. Sydni Wainscott (Erlanger, Ky.), a 5-5 senior guard, also returns to Hans’ starting lineup.

Following Thomas More in the coaches’ poll was Saint Vincent College, Washington & Jefferson College, Waynesburg University, Westminster College, Bethany College, Grove City College, Thiel College, Chatham University and Geneva College, respectively.

Saint Vincent welcomes back sophomore Mara Benvenuti (Franklin, Pa.), a 5-9 guard, as well as 6-2 senior forward Taylor Mathers (Uniontown, Pa.) and 5-2 sophomore guard Jasmine Weems (Prince Frederick, Md.). Mathers averaged 14.8 points last season to help the Bearcats finish 19-10 overall and 14-4 against the conference.

Despite graduating its leading scorer Chelsea Apke, Washington & Jefferson brings back 5-9 junior guard/forward Beka Bellhy (McDonald, Pa.) and 6-3 senior center Valerie Dunlap (Hostetter, Pa.). Bellhy averaged 14.2 points as a sophomore and played a role in the Presidents’ 21-9 record and 13-5 run in the PAC.

Waynesburg went 15-12 last return 5-4 junior guard Lauren Blair (Granville, Ohio), 5-7 senior guard Hayden Giuliani (Morgantown, W.Va.) and 5-9 senior guard Becca Kerr (New Castle, Pa.). Giuliani led Waynesburg in scoring last year by averaging 10.9 points a game.

After graduating three top scorers from last year’s roster, Rachel Durbin (Lowellville, Ohio), a 5-8 sophomore guard, and Andrea Marsh (Panama, N.Y.), a 5-8 junior forward, headline Westminster’s top returnees. The Titans went 15-11 overall last season and 12-6 against the conference.

Bethany welcomes back 5-6 sophomore guard Hayley Holenka (Shadyside, Ohio) and 5-9 junior forward Sami Schott (Caldwell, Ohio). The Bison finished 7-19 overall and 6-12 in the PAC. Schott averaged 10.7 points and 7.1 rebounds a game as a sophomore.

Kathryn Erbelding (Rochester, N.Y.), a 5-10 junior forward, and 5-7 senior guard Kelsey Shirey (Macedonia, Ohio) are Grove City’s top two returning players. Shirey averaged 12 points a game last year and helped the Wolverines finish 8-18 overall and 6-12 against the conference.

Thiel looks to rebound from last year’s 5-21 overall record and 4-14 campaign in the PAC. The Tomcats return 6-0 junior forward Jaclyn Watkins (Aliquippa, Pa.) and 5-3 junior guard Kayla Welty (Portville, N.Y.). Watkins averaged 14.9 points and 8.1 rebounds a game last year as a sophomore.


Chatham junior Rachel McClain

Rachel McClain (Hollidaysburg, Pa.), a 5-3 junior guard, as well as 5-9 sophomore forward Jesse Hinkl (Jefferson Hills, Pa.) and 5-6 sophomore guard Nikki Ingel look to help Chatham rebuild following a 3-22 overall showing and 2-16 PAC record last season.

Geneva also looks to improve from last year’s 4-20 overall record and 3-15 mark in the conference. Nicole Hyland (Trafford, Pa.), a 5-8 sophomore guard and 5-7 junior guard Heidi Mann (Colorado Springs, Colo.) are back for the Golden Tornadoes.

“Every Wednesday and Saturday are big games,” Hans said. “Just going through the schedule, in February we’re on the road five out of our last seven [games]. That’s going to be a challenge for our program to be ready to go, especially at that time of the year and against those teams.”

The PAC Sports Network will tipoff its coverage this season Dec. 3 when Westminster travels to Chatham. Fans can follow most games live at or check out archived broadcasts on the site. Click here for our 2014-2015 broadcast schedule.