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SMC Senior Athlete: Kessler graduates as Saint Mary’s’ all-time scoring leader

Meaghan Veselik | Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Eight Saint Mary’s records, three MIAA records, 2007-2008 MIAA MVP, Great Lakes Region Player of the Year and an All-America selection this year have made senior Alison Kessler the most successful athlete ever to come out of Saint Mary’s.

Kessler may not have expected it four years ago when she joined a Belles basketball team that had gone 7-19 in the 2003-2004 season. Since then she has helped in turning Saint Mary’s from a cellar dweller to a competitive 13-13, including 8-8 in MIAA play. The Belles climbed into fourth place in the conference this season. Kessler has come a long way from being named Saint Mary’s Rookie of the Year in 2005 to one of the top athletes in MIAA history.

In her freshmen season, Kessler’s talent was evident in the numbers she put up. She was fifth on the team with 217 points, averaging 8.3 per game. Kessler also led the team in free throw shooting, making 89 of 100, and was third on the team in assists with 1.7 per game.

Kessler’s sophomore season was an improvement on the previous one as she continued to impress her teammates and opponents with her skill and numbers, helping Saint Mary’s go 11-15 overall and 9-7 in MIAA play. She made 113 free throws, putting her at second in College history. She also scored a team-high 370 points and averaged 1.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. Kessler was named to the all-MIAA first team for the 2005-2006 season. Kessler broke another Saint Mary’s record as she scored 15 free throws in one game that year.

Kessler’s junior season was the one in which her real talent came out as she led Saint Mary’s to the best season in college history until that point with a record of 12-13 and 10-6 in the MIAA. She scored 497 points, averaging 19.9 per game and breaking the previous Saint Mary’s record of points in a season while leading the MIAA in scoring. She knocked down 174 free throws, breaking her own record from the ’05-06 season, and averaged 5.2 rebounds per game.

As a junior, Kessler was named to the all-MIAA first team for the second year in a row, and led the MIAA in steals.

Her success up until the start of her senior season was noteworthy, but this past season Kessler showed that she could be more than just noteworthy. Many people wondered if Saint Mary’s would suffer after guar Bridget Lipke graduated in 2007, but Kessler quickly showed she could step up even more. She led the team to its best season ever, broke her own records as well as others, and became the strongest player the college had ever seen.

Kessler scored a total 544 points this past season, averaging 20.9 per game and breaking her own school record of 497 points, while leading the MIAA in scoring for the second consecutive year. Kessler’s average of 20.9 per game made her for the eight-highest scorer in all of Division III. She hit 169 free throws and averaged 5.4 rebounds per game. Kessler also picked up 78 assists and 72 steals. On Jan. 16, she scored a school-record 41 points in a game at Kalamazoo, the most any Division III player had up until that point of the season.

Recalling the game against Kalamazoo, Kessler admits that she wasn’t thinking about breaking any records.

“Honestly, when I scored 41 points … I really had no idea that I did it until we were in the locker room and coach told me,” Kessler said. “[It was more important to me] that we won that game and finished out my career undefeated [8-0] against Kalamazoo.”

Kessler said she feels the same way about the other records too; the team comes first and milestones are less important.

“Although it was a great accomplishment to break all those records, it was more important to me that our team has become respected in the MIAA.  We have finished in the top half of the conference the past couple seasons and that was really unheard of when I first came to Saint Mary’s,” Kessler said.

Kessler was first in steals for the MIAA for the second year in a row, averaging 2.77 per game. She was also seventh in assists and sixteenth in rebounding. Kessler also had fourteen games in whcih she scored at least twenty points, more than any other player in the MIAA. She was named to the All-MIAA first team for the third straight year, and was named MIAA MVP.

All of this success, Kessler’s coach Jennifer Henley said, is not solely a matter of talent but one of attitude.

“Alison was a very competitive basketball player. Most fans could see that during the games, but she also brought that type of intensity to practice,” Henley said. “… I enjoyed coaching her over the last two years.”

Henley added that Kessler is also a very well-rounded student-athlete.

“For all the great things she accomplished on the court, she also accomplished [a lot] in the classroom,” Henley said. “She was a very serious student [and made the] Dean’s list every semester.”

Kessler has consistently garnered academic recognition over her four years, and it seems the athletic awards are rolling in just as frequently. Kessler was recently named the D3Hoops.com Great Lakes Region Player of the Year out of players from 57 schools. She also made the D3Hoops.com All-American second team. She is the first Saint Mary’s basketball player to earn All-America honors.

Kessler’s records for Saint Mary’s include most points in a game with 41; most free throws made in a game with 22 in the 2006-07 season; most points in a season with 544 in the 2007-08 season; most free throws in a season with 174 in 2006-07; most points in a career with 1628; most 3-pointers in a career with 149. She is also third in school history in steals with 196, and is third for 3-pointers in a season with 53.

Modest as ever, Kessler said Tuesday that she’s happy not just for herself but for the present and future years of SMC basketball.

“I think this is just the beginning of the success of our team and department,” she said. “I’m not sure I would call it a legacy but I’m happy to have made a positive impact on the program. I’m very happy that I was able to see the program become more competitive and respected in the MIAA. I’m confident that my teammates will continue to keep the program going in the right direction.”