Feature posted by www.mascac.com
It was a chance encounter.
Holly McGovern, former MCLA women's basketball coach, was there to scout her opponent. Over that 32 minute game, McGovern saw a spark in Jen Wehner that would translate to years of success on the North Adams campus.
Wehner, a native of Cooperstown, N.Y. was a dual sport athlete with the love of women's basketball and women's soccer. Before deciding on her collegiate future, she knew it was a package deal. She needed to go somewhere that would offer the opportunity to play sports.
That is where McGovern comes in.
"One of the big questions out of high school was whether I was going to play basketball or soccer," Wehner said. "I didn't want to choose one over the other. I wanted to go somewhere I could play both. At the time, I wanted to be an athletic trainer. McGovern was scouting one of my opponents and after speaking with her, I knew MCLA was a good fit. The size, degree opportunity and chance to play both sports made it an easy decision for me."
Playing both sports at the collegiate level isn't as easy as it once had been for Wehner. Although it was seamless going from soccer to basketball season in high school, the NCAA has stricter rules regarding dual sport participation.
It helped though that McGovern was not the women's basketball head coach but assisted on the women's soccer team too. With the guidance of McGovern and head women's soccer coach Deb Raber, Wehner carved out a plan on how she could be successful within the demands of both sports.
"We set up what that would look like playing both sports in back-to-back seasons plus abiding by the NCAA rules," Wehner said. "The conditioning was totally different for each sport. As a goalie, I wasn't running up and down the field, but I had to be agile. I loved conditioning…starting August with women's soccer preseason then going into October and seeing my basketball teammates practicing and getting excited for the upcoming season."
As a student-athlete for the Trailblazers, Wehner etched her name several times in the record books. In goal, she started 56 games, collecting 17 shutouts and stopping 495 shots during her career. As a junior, the team earned the MASCAC Regular Season Championship while Wehner finished with a miniscule 0.59 goals against average with 106 saves.
Although she had a great collegiate career on the pitch, it was the hardwood where she found the most success. She finished her MCLA career as the MASCAC Player of the Year (2011), four-time MASCAC All-Conference honoree, MASCAC Tournament MVP (2010), two-time New England Women's Basketball Association honoree and the school's all-time leader in points and rebounds with 1,606 points and 1,213 rebounds.
In 2010, she led the team to their first MASCAC Tournament title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Trailblazers defeated the number one and two seeds on their way to the crown.
Despite the long list of accolades, it was her teammates that left the biggest impression.
"I have to give all the credit to my teammates," Wehner said. "The way that they pushed me was exactly what I needed as a student-athlete. That was how I was successful, having people around me that pushed my limits. All the records and individual awards are great, but I couldn't have gotten there without them."
Wehner graduated in 2012 with her degree in athletic training. A quick stint at Hartwick helped her realize maybe that wasn't the career for her. An itch to get into coaching led her to RPI in 2013 where she served as the part-time assistant coach for the women's basketball program for two seasons.
A few years into coaching, a full-time position as the Coordinator for Recreation Services within the RPI athletic department came open and Wehner found the administrator job she desired.
It is only 38 miles door-to-door from RPI to MCLA and you had better believe Wehner makes the trip as often as she can.
As goalie Megan Richardson started to break Wehner's records, she was there to cheer her on and whenever the women's basketball team makes the trek to scrimmage at RPI, you know Wehner is there to chat it up with the coaches and student-athletes.
Although it has only been a few years since Wehner was a student-athlete, she wants current ones to make sure they are taking it all in during their time on campus.
"Enjoy everything you are doing whether you are on the court or on the field," Wehner said. "It is important that you spend time getting work done on and off the court. Enjoy those relationships that you made during your time as a student-athlete."
No one knows whether Wehner would have found MCLA without that encounter with McGovern years ago, but it ended up being the chance of a lifetime.