The thing about small-school, Division III athletics is that good teams sneak up on you. We love our athletes here at WCSU because they are generally among the best students, none of them have star attitudes (they never appear on ESPN), and for the most part they blend in with the rest of us.
So a team will go along winning half their games for a few years until suddenly a couple of kids show up who can play at a higher level. A few of us on campus start paying attention. Then the team goes deep into the playoffs and, to everyone’s delight, we’ve got a contender in our midst.
Such is the case with this year’s basketball teams.
The women’s team, coached by Kimberly Rybcyzk (pronounced the way it’s spelled), was chosen as the favorite to repeat as league champions.
If you missed this blurb in The Connecticut Post:
The Colonials earned each of the eight first-place votes for 64 total points to begin the campaign atop the annual preseason survey for the second time in program history (1999-2000).
Last year, WestConn posted a record of 23-6, won its second straight Little East Conference title and made its 12th appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Colonials’ success in 2010 has placed Western Connecticut firmly on the national landscape. The Colonials are currently ranked in three Division III national polls, including No. 19 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Preseason Poll and No.22 in D3Hoops.com national listings.
Senior center Melissa Teel was recently recognized as one of 25 D3Hoops.com Preseason All-Americans.
Teel, a senior and an education major, is pretty close to the perfect Division III athlete. She is polite, smart, a little shy, and a beast on the court. Blocked shots are a particular specialty of hers and if you have ever paid attention at a basketball game you know it is one of the most exciting plays in all of sports. Last year, she had 141 blocks, the most of any player in the country. She also averaged 13.9 points and 14.6 rebounds a game.
The men’s team is also ascendant. Coach Bob Campbell earned his 500th career win this season and the Colonials, 7-1 so far, were picked to finish second in the Little East behind Rhode Island College. The unfortunately named Anchormen are only 6-3 to start the season but happily they did crush Eastern Connecticut State on Dec. 4, 52-49.
The star player for the Colonials is DaQuan Brooks, who recently scored his 1,000th point in his college career. He’s a junior. Last season he was named the Little East Player of the Year, finishing second in the league in scoring, with 19.6 points per game and second in assists, averaging 4.1 a game. Last season, Brooks scored in double figures 23 games and hit 20 points 12 times. WCSU won nine of its last 12 games to post an overall record of 19-7. The team advanced to the championship game of the 2010 Little East Championship before being edged by the aforementioned Anchormen.
Consider attending a double-header at Steven Feldman Arena in the O’Neill Center on the Westside campus. We’re having one of those years when we could all be surprised.
Follow Western Connecticut State University at www.wcsu.edu.