For months, TWU basketball coach Beth Jillson has watched all the hard work and effort that senior center Mary Kovtun has put in trying to improve her game. On Sunday night, the payoff came in a huge way.
In a win over Midwestern State, Kovtun, the Pioneers’ 6-6 center from Ukraine, provided the dominating play around the basket that Jillson has sought since Kovtun transferred to TWU two years ago. Kovtun stayed out of foul trouble while being nearly unstoppable with the ball in her hands and being an equally strong force on the defensive end of the floor.
“Mary was in a zone and had a breakout game,” Jillson said. “She wanted the ball and dominated at the basket.”
Kovtun registered a personal high in points for the second time this season, while grabbing nine rebounds and blocking three shots. She finished with a career-best 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor and a 7-of-10 effort from the line.
Earlier this season she posted 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds in a 81-53 thumping of Central Oklahoma.
Although she still lacks consistency in her impact on the floor from game to game, Sunday’s play in TWU’s 66-65 win over the Mustangs was key for the Pioneers. It was a final free throw by Kovtun that lifted the Pioneers to their second consecutive win and improved their home record to 6-0.
“She worked really, really hard in the spring and then continued it during the summer,” Jillson said. “She committed herself to getting in the gym and becoming a better player.”
For her effort in last week’s two victories, including the team’s first road victory with a 66-53 handling of Cameron, Kovtun was named the Lone Star Conference Defensive Player of the Week. In the two games, she averaged 11.5 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Something in common
It turns out that the Pioneers’ Taylor Swift has something in common with the country star who shares her name — a pretty powerful singing voice.
Taylor Swift the basketball player belted out the national anthem prior to TWU’s home game Sunday against Midwestern State.
The senior guard from Claremore, Okla., is sidelined with a foot injury, but that didn’t stop her from stepping out to midcourt and performing the anthem at Kitty Magee Arena. Swift, who lists her hobby as singing in her school bio, received a rousing response from her teammates and fans.
Former TWU basketball player Dr. Tammi (Julch) Williams was honored as a member of the NCAA Division II 40th Anniversary Tribute Team at the NCAA convention in San Diego this month.
Each of the 23 Division II conferences selected one female and one male representative for the team.
A 2002 TWU Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, Williams was a dominant post player for the Pioneers from 1990-94. She scored 1,644 points and grabbed 805 rebounds, which both rank second at TWU.
The Arlington native was a three-time All-LSC and all-academic performer who was named Texas’ 1994 Division II Woman of the Year.
Williams is a pediatrician at the Medical and Surgical Clinic of Irving.
Johnson makes statement
If Saturday night was any indication, senior Brittainy Johnson is going to make sure her career as a Pioneer gymnast goes out with a bang.
Johnson lit up the scoreboard in two events and was the spark that led the Pioneers to a historic home debut in their win over Air Force. The fifth-year senior from Houston matched a career high with a 9.900 on balance beam in TWU’s third rotation, preceded by her team-leading 9.825 on uneven bars.
With solid efforts from all the Pioneers, TWU eclipsed a team score of 194 in a home opener for the first time. The Pioneers won three of the four events and cruised to a 194.250-191.900 win over Air Force.
“We had a great week of practic,e and it paid off with some great performances in front of our home crowd,” TWU coach Lisa Bowerman said. “We were not flawless and still have some improvement to make. But our goal was to break the home opener record and I am proud of that accomplishment.”
The Pioneers posted scores of 48.325 or better in all four events, losing only in beam.
Contributing career-best performances were freshmen Katie Simpson with a 9.750 on bars and Carly Carter with a 9.750 on beam.
The Pioneers and William & Mary will participate in a three-way meet at North Carolina State at 6 p.m. Friday.
Pioneers to get rings
Members of the TWU softball team that captured the Lone Star championship and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time last spring will be recognized in a ring ceremony scheduled for halftime of the Pioneers’ 2 p.m. basketball game Sunday.
Ann Stuart, TWU’s chancellor and president, will recognize the players and coaches in a ceremony that was scheduled for Dec. 7 but postponed because of an ice storm.
Banners honoring the team will be unfurled at Kitty Magee Arena, reflecting the team’s LSC regular-season and tournament titles and its NCAA regional and super regional crowns.
Dozens named to honor roll
TWU had 61 student-athletes from all five sports named to the 2013-14 LSC Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
To be eligible for the honor roll, a student must have a minimum grade-point average of 3.30 and be on the active roster of their sport. Of the 61 Pioneers on the list, 26 posted a perfect 4.0 GPA for the fall semester.
Starting this year, the honor roll is being announced at the conclusion of the fall and spring semesters, with qualifying based on the athlete’s GPA for that semester.