Thiel’s Jess Vormelker driven to earn more respect from PAC peers
Most athletes will say team accomplishments are more important than individual accolades. Thiel women’s basketball player Jess Vormelker is no different.
But the senior guard would by lying if she said she wasn’t striving to earn first-team all-Presidents’ Athletic Conference honors this winter.
Last season, Vormelker (5-foot-9) led the PAC in scoring (19.8 points) and rebounding (9.5). She also ranked in the top 10 in free-throw percentage (ninth, 78.0), steals (ninth, 1.8), 3-point percentage (eighth, 35.9), blocks (fourth, 1.2), defensive rebounds (first, 7.9) and minutes (first, 36.6).
Yet for all that, she earned only second-team all-conference honors.
Her coach, Rob Clune, chalked up the snub, at least in part, to the presence of Thomas More. The Saints, no longer a member of the PAC, gobbled up two spots on the first team with D3hoops.com All-Americans Madison Temple and Abby Owings.
“There are other teams that want their players to be on first team, too,” Clune said. “Who knows how it all went?”
So Vormelker channeled her disappointment into the most productive offseason of her career. She worked out every day, including working with a trainer for the first time.
At Hoops of Excellence Basketball Academy in Cleveland — about an hour west of her tiny hometown of Orwell, Ohio — she tested herself against other top players, including a handful from Division I schools.
“Getting that second team … I think it did motivate me even more to prove to these coaches that I’m a pretty well-rounded player,” Vormelker said. “Maybe that happened for a reason, just to make me work even harder, to push me to make me prove all these people wrong.”
Entering Wednesday’s game at Westminster, Vormelker was second in the PAC in scoring (19.8 points) and fourth in rebounding (8.1). She also ranked fifth in assists (3.2).
She often accumulates her numbers against junk defenses or schemes designed specifically to deny her the ball. To counter that, she has expanded her offensive repertoire to include more mid-range shots as well as the ability to score down low.
“If she gets someone down there, she has a little bit of a step-back,” Clune said, likening the move to one often used by the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant. “She’s a very good shooter. She has a quick release, which you have to have if you’re going to be the focus of defenses.”
In addition to stellar stats, Vormelker knows wins also will help to get her noticed. Thiel was just 2-6 in the PAC heading into Wednesday’s game, but with eight games remaining and a young lineup that it starting to jell, Vormelker said she believes the Tomcats can finish strong.
“I definitely see improvement so much,” she said, noting Thiel took North Coast Athletic Conference champion Oberlin to overtime in its most recent game. “We’ve played more as a team and a lot harder than we have in the past.
“I’d love for us to make a run in the conference tournament. I think as a team, we have so much to show the rest of the conference.”
Vormelker, who is studying to be an elementary school teacher, doesn’t have much time left to show off her skills. In the next month, she will wrap up her time at Thiel as the program’s third all-time leading scorer — she has 1,461 points and counting — and likely finish in the top 10 in career rebounds.
To finish with a first-team honor would be sweet, but she said she already has plenty to cherish.
“I’ve done a little reflecting, especially as of late since it is my senior year,” she said. “I’m just a little small-town girl. I graduated with 75 kids, and to do what I have been able to do at Thiel over the last four seasons is amazing.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at email@example.com or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .