Alyson Cotter is Providing a Key Spark for the Nationally-Ranked Baldwin-
Wallace College Women’s Basketball Team
By: Matthew Florjancic, Correspondent
BEREA—The Baldwin Wallace University women’s basketball team has just two senior players, is 17-2 overall, leading the Ohio Athletic Conference with a perfect 12-0 record and is 15-0 against NCAA Division III Great Lakes Region teams. It couldn’t get any better than that, could it?
The answer is a resounding yes. And part of the reason the answer is yes is due to the play of Salem High School graduate and current Yellow Jacket sophomore guard/forward Alyson Cotter.
Veteran Yellow Jacket Head Coach Cheri Harrer is currently playing as many as 13 student-athletes each game in her “rotation” and Cotter is one of the keys in her second rotation. It also means that Cotter is one of 11 players who are both upholding a tradition of excellence and have a chance to make their own history.
The 19-year old from Salem has seen action in all 19 games and is averaging 7.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per contest and lately Cotter has been heating up even more. In the last four BW games, Cotter has scored 40 points to average 10.0 ppg., including a career-high 14 markers in a 90-44 win at Heidelberg College in Tiffin on January 17. She also leads the team in free throw shooting at 85.2 percent (23-of-27 attempts) is tied for second on the team with 17 three-pointers and is third with nine blocked shots.
“Alyson continues to become more comfortable in her role every time that she steps out onto the court,” said Harrer, the winningest women’s basketball coach in BW history with 318 victories prior to playing Heidelberg in Berea on Jan. 31. “Right now she is playing with a high level of confidence and it is rubbing off on her teammates.”
BW has won its last eight games. It began the season at 9-0 before losing to second-ranked Scranton (Pa.) and a solid Division II Wheeling (W.Va.) Jesuit team. With Cotter coming off the bench to spark the offense, BW has beaten its last two opponents by an average of 29.7 points per contest.
As a freshman a year ago, Cotter scored 4.6 points and collected 3.6 rebounds per game. She connected on 24 of 58 three-point attempts and tallied 18 assists, 17 blocks and 15 steals.
Cotter, a sport management major, believes the team has great potential to win.
“I would like to do whatever I can to help the team win,” said Cotter, who enjoys shopping and spending time with friends and family during the off-season. “Ultimately, we know we can win the OAC title and can go farther than we did last year in the NCAA Division III National Tournament. (BW was upset in its first round game and finished 23-6 overall).
“My teammates are awesome,” said Cotter, who also works as a student assistant in BW’s Sports Information Office. “I could not ask for a better group of young women. We constantly push each other to get better.”
Cotter’s teammates and coaches have taken notice of her efforts. They appreciate what she brings to the court everyday.
“In high school, Alyson played the two-guard, but made the transition to a post in college,” said fellow sophomore guard/forward Stacia Shrider of Marietta, Ohio. “She has handled the transition extremely well and is one of our best rebounders.
“She is an offensive threat anywhere on the court,” Shrider added. “With her positive attitude, hard work and determination that she carries on the floor, I know she will be a success in any endeavor she chooses.”
But it wasn’t always so easy at BW for Cotter.
“It was tough in the beginning for Alyson,” Coach Harrer said. “She played guard in high school and we moved her to a post, because athletically she has a hard time keeping up with the quicker guards in our league.
“She is quicker than most posts and can take either take them to the basket by driving or take them further outside and knock down the three-pointer,” said Harrer. “She is versatile and that is a key strength. It also is the strength of our team. We have a number of players who can play either guard or forward and that makes our rotation work that much better.”
During the offseason, Cotter spends a lot of time conditioning.
“I am probably in better shape after the season than during the season because after I finish studying, I run and workout a lot,” said Cotter. “I spend two or three hours-a-day working out. It has really helped with our runnin style.”
Cotter, who chose to come to BW over Bucknell and Mercyhurst, helped lead the Salem Quakers to a State Final Four appearance.
“My senior year, we won the Regional Final against Bay Village and went to the OHSAA State Tournament,” said Cotter. “We played the worst three quarters we could, then tied it, went to overtime and ultimately lost.”
Despite the loss to Hamilton Badin, Cotter had 13 points and caught the eye of Harrer.
“Alyson played for a great high school team,” said Harrer. “She led her team to a State Final Four and had a great senior year.
“I went to see her play more than a few times. She could knock down the three and handle the ball,” Harrer added. “She was a pretty complete player coming out of high school and we knew both academically and athletically that she’d be a great fit in our program. We are glad that she came to BW because she has added a great deal to our program both in terms of leadership and basketball ability.”
In addition to Harrer, Cotter believes her eighth grade coach, Sue Wolfgang, and high school coach, Steve Stewart, are big reasons why she has experienced success on the hardwood.
In high school, Cotter earned All-Ohio honors as a junior and senior. She was a four-time All-Metro Athletic Conference pick and set four records while in the Red & Black of the Salem Quakers. During her career, Cotter shot 89 percent from the free throw line and set school records for three-pointers in a game (five), season (49) and career, (142).
When Cotter got to Berea, she fell in love with the campus. She was not at all intimidated by the rich tradition of basketball success at BW.
“I liked the campus a lot. It felt like home on my visit,” said Cotter, who carries a 3.6 grade average and is a candidate for both ESPN THE MAGAZINE Academic All-District IV and Academic All-OAC accolades. “BW had the program I wanted to study and a great track record of success for its graduates
“College players were the best on their high school teams,” said Cotter, who has to make her last shot before heading to the bench for player introductions. “I came from a successful high school and wanted to continue to win. We have won at BW so far and now we need to keep it going so that we can go farther in the NCAA tourney and win a national title. We also know that we must do it one game at a time.”
With Cotter’s outstanding work ethic and desire to win, Coach Harrer might have to consult a jeweler about more than an OAC Championship ring. She and her team may need to get fitted for an NCAA Division III National Championship ring one day soon. Keep your fingers crossed!
Following its 7:30 p.m. home game against Heidelberg on Jan. 31, Cotter and her teammates will begin preparations for a Saturday, February 4 game at second place Otterbein College. Game time at the Rike Center is 3:00 p.m. BW currently leads Otterbein, Capital University and Wilmington College (all 9-3 in the OAC) by three games as it seeks to win its third straight OAC regular season and third straight OAC Tournament titles. The winner of the OAC Tournament receives an automatic berth in the Division III National Tournament.