1993 NCAA Div. III champions
PELLA — Central College Athletics Director Eric Van Kley made it official.
After piloting the Central College women’s basketball team to its highest victory total in the past decade while serving in an interim role, Chelsea Petersen has been named the program’s head coach.
“We’re extremely pleased with the momentum and progress we saw throughout the season,” Van Kley said. “There’s a whole new level of energy in the program. Chelsea models the values and beliefs that are important to Central College. We’re extremely excited to have her in this position.”
Petersen, who joined the Central staff as an assistant in 2012, was tabbed as interim head coach following Mike Jacobsma’s resignation for an administrative position in Colorado in mid-August. Bolstered by an influx of young talent that Petersen played a big role in bringing to campus while serving as assistant coach, the Dutch sprinted to a 6-0 start and finished 11-14 overall with two Iowa Conference wins in the season’s final 10 days. It’s only the second time since 2004 that Central has recorded a double-digit win total.
“Chelsea is a tireless recruiter,” Van Kley said. “She was instrumental in bringing in the freshman class we have now, and we’re very excited about the class she is developing for next year. Clearly that is a strength. She is a relationship-builder. She’s developed tremendous relationships with our student-athletes on and off the court.
“We see a very bright future for Central women’s basketball.”
Guard Kenzie Vander Molen (junior, Pella), the team’s leading scorer, echoed those thoughts.
“It’s really important for a coach to have a relationship with the players,” Vander Molen said. “She truly cares about us and what’s going on with our families and friends. She cares about how we’re doing in the classroom and she enjoys watching us succeed on the court as well.
“For a program to keep growing and improving, you need to have consistency. We’re really excited to have her back and know that she’s dedicated to the program just as much as we are.
“This past year was a great start. I see this program getting better every year.”
Petersen is equally enthused about building on the team’s early progress.
“I want to thank Eric Van Kley and the administration at Central College for providing this opportunity,” Petersen said. “Working with the Central College women’s team this past season was a very rewarding experience. We have a tremendous group of young women on our team, and I am fortunate that I will have the opportunity to be their head coach.”
The choice is also popular with the Dutch players.
“We’re excited to have her back,”
A Wyoming, Iowa native and graduate of Midland Community High School, Petersen was an assistant coach at Anderson University (Ind.) from 2009-12 while she earned a master’s degree in business administration. She is a 2008 Upper Iowa University graduate and carried a 4.0 grade point average throughout her undergraduate and graduate career.
At Upper Iowa, Petersen was a team captain and four-year letterwinner. At the time of her graduation she ranked second in school history in season defensive rebounds (163), fourth in career rebounds (689) and sixth in season free throw percentage (80.3). She received Academic All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference honors. At Midland High School Petersen still holds seven records. She was the team and conference MVP while receiving all-state distinction as well.
“For the past 10 years basketball and academics have been my passion,” Petersen said. “The opportunity at Central truly is a dream job for me. I feel very privileged to join the Central College family as a head women’s basketball coach.”
Central was hindered in the second half of this past season by the loss of talented sophomore transfer guard Kaitlin Stump (Lancaster, Mo., Schuyler R-1 HS) to a season-ending injury Dec. 29, and the departure of junior center Bry Pierce (St. Clair, Mo.), who is spending spring semester in Europe through Central College Abroad. Both are expected to return next season, along with starters Vander Molen, guard Rachel Evans (junior, Fort Dodge) and guard Emily Neff (freshman, Cedar Falls).
Petersen found much to build on during her interim season as coach.
“The women’s basketball program made excellent progress last season and built a strong foundation for the future,” Petersen said. “There were some tremendous highlights this past season, from Kenzie Vander Molen’s 30-point performance at Loras, to Courtney Kelderman’s (senior, Pella) game-winning 3-pointer against Luther. Those moments are what basketball is all about. I think our trip to Puerto Rico (for Dec. 28-29 games in San Juan) provided a great learning experience for the players and opportunity to be ambassadors for Central College.”
And, while the program has endured some struggles in recent years, it has one of the most powerful traditions in the Iowa Conference, winning or sharing six league titles while gaining five NCAA Division III playoff berths and capturing the 1993 NCAA national title. Petersen is convinced that the Dutch will soon bring championship basketball back to P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium.
“During the past season, the women’s team recorded many significant achievements,” she said. “These milestones and the momentum we had at the end of the season set the stage for a very exciting future. I am absolutely confident the women’s basketball program at Central will become one of the leading programs in the Iowa Conference while representing the highest standards of student-athlete behavior.”