Clarks Summit enjoys turnaround season
Clarks Summit enjoys turnaround season

JAKE DANNA STEVENS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Clarks Summit University’s Elizabeth Singleton during practice on Monday, Jan. 20.

S. ABINGTON TWP. — Constantly losing wore on Randie Traxler.

During her first two years as a member of the Clarks Summit University women's basketball team, the Lady Defenders had a combined record of 1-48.

Sometimes, she would be so frustrated that, after another defeat, she would go on a three-mile run even though she was exhausted from playing a full 40 minutes in the game.

She lost her love for basketball.

But Traxler stuck it out and is glad she did because Clarks Summit has returned to its winning ways.

Entering Wednesday night's game at Centenary University, the Lady Defenders had an overall record of 14-5 and a 9-3 mark in the Colonial States Athletic Conference.

"This year has been a lot different," said Traxler, a junior from Dublin, Georgia. "We have a great team, we've bonded real well and we play well together."

There was a time when Clarks Summit won with regularity. During the 2011-12 season, the Lady Defenders won 17 games.

Over the next seven seasons, however, they won a combined 15 games.

Rick Harrison is in his second year as the team's head coach. He graduated from the school in 1985 when it was known as Baptist Bible College, played on the men's basketball team and was a three-time National Christian College Athletic Association All-American.

When he was hired before last season, there wasn't enough time to recruit players. That meant trying to find individuals to play from within the school just so there would be a team.

"A lot of people said no," Harrison said. "But there were some ladies who were willing to put themselves out there to keep the program going. I'm really thankful for them.

"It was tough, losing every game. But they played hard. Whatever they had, they gave it their all."

Clarks Summit went 0-24 last season, extending its losing streak to 32 games.

Then came a bit of good fortune.

Davis College in Johnson City, New York, announced in July it was merging with Word of Life Bible Institute in Pottersville, New York, after the 2019-20 school year because of declining enrollment.

As a result, Davis no longer had a women's basketball team. So several of their players transferred to Clarks Summit.

Those players were accustomed to winning. Last season, Davis won 20 games — including a 72-27 thumping of Clarks Summit. It captured the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title and qualified for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national tournament.

They paid immediate dividends. Clarks Summit dropped its season opener, but won its next two games. After a 3-4 start, the Lady Defenders reeled off a 10-game winning streak that was halted by local rival Keystone College on Jan. 29, 83-79. They got back on the winning track in their next game, though, by beating Notre Dame of Maryland University.

"We ended up blending in well and the school welcomed us in," sophomore Elizabeth Singleton said. "It wasn't hard, it didn't take long."

Singleton leads Clarks Summit with 18.9 points and 10 rebounds. As a freshman at Davis, she was the HVIAC Player of Year and tournament MVP. Second-leading scorer sophomore Alison Aten (14.1 ppg) also played at Davis last season. She ranks fourth in NCAA Division III in 3-point field goals per game with 3.5.

Among the other players from Davis include Candace Winkel, Michaela McLeod, Melodie McKee, Katie McKee and Linnea Sweeney. Traxler and April Mercier are the only players on the roster who played for Clarks Summit last season.

"Winning this year, it feels nice," Traxler said.

As a freshman, Traxler led NCAA Division III in minutes played with 39.92 per game. Out of a possible 1,005 minutes in 25 games, she played 998 of them.

"I did not get a break. I definitely would get a lot more tired playing every minute of every game," said Traxler, who averages 12.4 points. "It's actually nice (this year). It's not the same, it's different. I can do a lot better on defense because I'm not tired and we can sub in and out, so I'm not totally drained."

Winning has created a renewed interest in the program.

"For the ladies and for the school, the team doing well is a huge boost," Harrison said. "It's fun to see the excitement. Everybody around the school is saying congratulations and things like that. They're happy to see it going well. Hopefully, we can keep it going."

Because of their success, the Lady Defenders' goals from the start of the season have changed.

Instead of winning some games, there is talk of the playoffs. Maybe even winning the CSAC championship.

"It's so surreal and amazing," Traxler said.

Contact the writer:

swalsh@timesshamrock.com;

570-348-9100, ext. 5109;

@swalshTT on Twitter

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