The four seniors that will run up and down Memorial Hall’s wooden floor as part of the women’s basketball team have quite a bit in common. They all appear somewhere in the college’s women’s basketball record book. They have all earned a Centennial Conference honor in their career. Oh yeah, and one more commonality among this year’s graduating class of seniors: these four young women know how to win.

As usual, the Muhlenberg women’s basketball program has named all of its seniors captains for the upcoming season. This year’s captains feature Brandi Vallely ’18, Christina Manning ‘18, Rachel Plotke ‘18 and Chelsea Gary ’18.

“We want to be examples on the court, work hard and give it all we have,” – Christina Manning

Head Coach Ron Rohn admits thinking about what makes this senior class special was no difficult task. “This group of seniors is very special because they have all played important roles on the court as well as in the locker room,” said Rohn. The legacy this group has the chance to leave has the potential to be record breaking as well. “They (the seniors) have a chance to win four championships in four years, which nobody at Muhlenberg or in the league has ever done,” Rohn added.

Naming all the squad’s seniors as captains is a tradition Rohn has upheld “for the past 10 years or so”. Vallely remembers back to her freshman year when the team had seven seniors, and therefore seven captains.

“I don’t think there is a limit to how far this team can go” – Rachel Plotke

“Each senior brings a different and unique view and perspective to the team through their previous three years of experience,” said Rohn. He continued, “I believe that if you have been a part of our program going into your 4th year, that you are prepared to step forward to lead the team.” Vallely, a two-time Centennial Conference first team guard, agreed with her coach. She acknowledged the experiences of this year’s graduating class will help them lead a team seeking more record breaking success.  “All four of us have been through a lot together on and off the court, so I think it’s that connection that helps us become good captains.”

The road to senior year may have been filled with many wins, but none of the women came into the program with their starting role handed to them on a silver platter. The women’s sophomore year is when the four of them flourished into the dominant team they have become today. “They (the seniors) paid their dues as practice players as freshmen, not seeing much playing time,” explained Rohn. “They worked their way up the ladder into the roles they hold today.” 

The job description of captain includes leading a program which has achieved excellence throughout every player’s time on Muhlenberg’s campus. The role Rohn mentions, of being a captain, is no easy or ordinary task. “The best leaders are those people whom others instinctively want to follow and listen to.  You earn that by your actions and your character, and that starts long before the day you are named a team captain,” began Rohn. “Giving the name of captain does not make someone a leader.”

However, the seniors themselves do have an idea of how they intend on being an effective captain. “We want to be examples on the court, work hard and give it all we have,” said Manning. Vallely mentioned a positive attitude is also essential throughout the grind of a college athletics season. “I think we all just aim to be there for everyone on our team and try to always bring a positive attitude.”

“They (the seniors) paid their dues as practice players as freshmen, not seeing much playing time,” explained Rohn. “They worked their way up the ladder into the roles they hold today” – Coach Rohn

Coach Rohn can already see that experience and leadership rubbing off on the rest of the squad. “Our team has great respect for each of them (the seniors) and wants to play this season for them, to send them out on top.” He continued to add that the younger members of the Women’s Basketball team shouldn’t confine their respect for this year’s senior class to the walls of Memorial Hall. “I’m most proud of the kind of people and students they are.  Each of them has made their mark at the college in the classroom, and in outside interests and activities,” he said. “Despite their accomplishments, they are always humble and hard working.  They have great work ethics, and always want to improve from where they currently are. You couldn’t ask for better representatives of Muhlenberg College.”

On the court, the Life Sports Center will house the annual Scotty Wood Tournament. The exciting, fast paced tournament which marks the beginning of the season for both the men’s and women’s basketball programs will be a showcase to see how the team as a whole comes out to play this year. Plotke thinks that this is “the most intense preseason in my four years here.” She added, “It just shows how committed we are to be playing at a high level of basketball… We are playing a much more intense, in-your-face style of defense this season, and in turn I think that intensity is contributing to better execution on the offensive end.” Manning had similar thoughts as Plotke adding the underclassmen are “stepping up and catching on really quickly.”

As usual, the goals remain the same year in and year out for a program which has earned the national attention they have received of late. “Our goals this season are to go further within the NCAA tournament (than last year). We really want that conference championship though,” said Vallely. Plotke thinks that the fans of the Women’s Basketball program may be watching this team play long after the the regular season ends as well. “I don’t think there is a limit to how far this team can go.”

Without a doubt, the Mules are by no means satisfied by their current success. It would be easy for this team to be satisfied with their already remarkable achievements, but there’s no fun in just being satisfied. Rohn implemented the mentality of finishing the career’s of these four young women they way they started, with wins. “Our team motto on our lifting shirts is ‘444’, meaning four championships, for the four seniors, in four years.” Talk about what would make quite a commencement for a group of student athletes. “There is no question that our team, and the college as whole, will miss these four seniors when they are gone.”

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