By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University women's basketball Head Coach Peg Swadener has been selected as the NCAA Division III West Region Coach of the Year by D3hoops.com for the 2017-18 season. Swadener led the Bearcats to 17-10 overall record, including a 12-4 record and a third place finish in the Northwest Conference. It was Willamette's first winning record since the Bearcats went 17-8 in 2000-01.
The Bearcats ended the regular season at 16-9 and were seeded #3 for the four-team NWC Tournament. In the semifinals, Willamette defeated nationally-ranked Whitman College, 55-52, in Walla Walla, Washington. It was the Bearcats' second win over the Blues in less than a week. In the NWC Tournament Championship game, Willamette fell to nationally-ranked George Fox University, 60-50, but the Bearcats trailed by just two points, 52-50, with 2:23 remaining in the game. The Bearcats came very close to earning the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
Willamette played a challenging schedule that included games against five teams ranked in the D3hoops.com Top 25 Poll released prior to the NCAA Tournament. The nationally-ranked teams were Thomas More College (Ky.) at #3, George Fox #13, Christopher Newport University (Va.) at #18, Whitman at #19, and Trinity University (Texas) at #25. Willamette played Whitman when the Blues were ranked #6, #9 and #13. The Bearcats also played Northwest Christian University, which ended the year ranked #18 in the NAIA National Poll.
Swadener guided the Bearcats to a a 7-4 record in home games at Cone Field House and to an 8-3 mark in true road games hosted by the opponent. The Bearcats won eight games by six points or less, including a 3-0 record in overtime. Seven of those narrow victories were in NWC regular season action or during the NWC Tournament.
Two Bearcats averaged in doubled figures for scoring. Kylie Towry (Sr., G, Medford, OR/South Medford HS) averaged 17.4 points per game and hit a school record 74 three-pointers. Britanny Kochenderfer (Jr., G, Klamath Falls, OR/Henley HS/Idaho State Univ.) provided 11.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The Bearcats held opponents to just 61.9 points per game.
Swadener was in her sixth year with the Bearcats this season. She joined the Willamette coaching staff prior to 2012-13. Swadener has improved the Bearcats from a team than won only one game the year before she arrived into a team that narrowly missed the .500 mark with 12-13 records in both 2015-16 and 2016-17, and then reached the NWC Tournament Championship game in 2017-18.