When Liz Waleski stepped on the campus of Misericordia University last fall, she didn’t know she was one of seven freshmen competing for playing time on the women’s basketball team.
There were district champions, state champions, and several 1,000-point scorers. Waleski was in the thick of it all season.
Waleski appeared in all 25 games and averaged 23.8 minutes per game. Her 8.1 points per game were third on the team, while her 202 total points were second on the team. She, along with fellow freshman Rachel Carmody from Western Wayne, combined for nearly 17 points per game.
“This was a lot different than high school,” Waleski said. “You have to up in a lot more hours. With seven freshman, we didn’t know how we would come together. The team kind of clicked in the beginning.”
The Cougars finished the season 7-18 with three wins in the Middle Atlantic Conference. In the team’s home finale, Waleski scored 14 points. She had a season-high 18 points twice during the season. She said it was nerve-wracking at the beginning of the season because there were so many players fighting for playing time.
In the preseason, she earned a starting position and scored 18 points against Alvernia in the third game of the season.
“I was wondering if someone was going to take my spot,” she said. “But everyone plays different positions. We all come from great programs and good teams.”
The former Pittston Area player will find herself in the Misericordia record books when next year’s media guide comes out. Her 34 threes led the team and was good for 10th all-time for a single season at Misericordia. Her 37.4 percent from three-point range led the team and was also 10th all-time. She shot 81 percent from the free throw line and is ninth all-time at Misericordia.
Many of those numbers are behind former Pittston Area and Misericordia star Lauren Smicherko. In 2012-13, Smicherko’s 86.5 percent from the foul line ranks first in Misericordia history. She’s second all-time in career free throw percentage. Smicherko graduated from Misericordia in 2015.
Waleski was a 1,000-point scorer for Pittston Area and won several district championships across three sports in high school.
She is part of a Pittston Area basketball program that continues to produce college athletes. There are now seven players participating in collegiate basketball, including Waleski: Steve Stravinski and Mason Gross play for Wilkes; Eastin Ashby plays at Emerson College, Mia Hopkins plays at Bloomsburg; Tyler McGarry at Misericordia; and Jackie Rabender plays at Penn State Wilkes-Barre.
The Misericordia freshman is proud to come from a school that features so many solid college athletes. She said the style of coach Kathy Healey is what helps most of the girls go on to play at the collegiate level.
“You never really think about that when you’re in high school,” Waleski said. “What’s so great about the PA program is (Healey) is so personal. If there’s a problem or something to fix, she’ll fix it.”
Waleski said the Cougars will be working throughout the offseason to put themselves in position to compete for a MAC Championship next season. She said earning a championship is the top goal every season.
“I think we are focusing on a lot of the little things to work toward that championship goal,” she said. “It takes a lot of heart and dedication.”
Waleski is the daughter of Stan and Janice Waleski, Avoca. She’s studying physical therapy at Misericordia.
McGarry’s season ends in semifinals
Former PA boys basketball standout Tyler McGarry appeared in 26 games this season for the Cougars. He averaged nearly 20 minutes per game and just shy of seven points per contest.
In Misericordia’s final game of the season, the MAC Freedom semifinals against Delaware Valley, McGarry chipped in with nine points on three second half threes. The Cougars, however, saw their season come to an end with a 58-57 loss. Misericordia finished the season 15-11.
The highlight of McGarry’s season was a career-high 18 points in 21 minutes against Eastern University on Feb. 16. In that game, McGarry was 4-for-8 from the three-points line and 6-for-11 overall.