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Home Court Advantage

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Assistant Coach Erin Rewalt during her playing days.     By Dartmouth

If you look up the definition of home in the dictionary you will get numerous definitions. Some imply that home is the physical structure in which one lives, others define home as the place where one was born or has lived for a long time, but for our purposes we're going to define home as "A valued place offering security and happiness" If anyone defines home as such it's current Dartmouth women's basketball assistant coach Erin Rewalt and Director of Operations Koren Schram.

First Half

It's March 6, 1999 and the Big Green is playing Princeton for the IvyLeague title in a playoff game at Yale. Senior forward Erin Rewalt played 30 minutes and tallied eight points and five rebounds to lead the Big Green to its first Ivy League title since the 1994-95 season. It's a moment Rewalt won't soon forget, one she counts as her best memory from her playing days at Dartmouth.

"We had a great band when I was a player. They were a typical Ivy League band, unique with lots of personality, but they were so wonderful and loyal and they came on road trips.  I'll never forget when we were cutting down the nets at Yale, and the band was playing out on the floor and everyone was dancing and it was just an incredible experience.

Then to know that we were going to come back to Hanover and watch the ESPN selection show and figure out where we were going to play in the NCAA Tournament, that was a really good moment to have because I was with my best friends. To go through that with people you've had such good relationships with is unforgettable."

It's Senior Night at Leede Arena and the Big Green are playing archrival Harvard in the final game of the regular-season. Point guard Koren Schram netted her 1,000th point with 18 points and added three rebounds and an assist to lead the Big Green to its second consecutive Ivy League title and first outright since 2000. Head coach Chris Wielgus picked up her 12th Ivy League title and her 400th career victory on the night.

"It was one of those nights that you can never have back. It was the perfect night and I still talk about it. It was the game that won us the Ivy League Championship on our home court and it was the same game that I scored my 1,000th point. It was the same game that Chris won her 400th career game and it was my Senior Night. I got to do all of that and cut down the nets in front of my family, my parents and my brother.  I didn't realize until about 2 a.m. that I had an exam the next day and really I didn't even care."

Two players, two Ivy League titles and two journeys back to the place they call home.

Second Half

Erin Rewalt has always had a passion for basketball, it's been a part of her life for as long as she can remember but when she came to Dartmouth her eyes were opened to a whole new world, one that ended up taking her away from the game for a decade but it was never far from her heart.

"I've always wanted to coach, ever since I was little but when I came to Dartmouth my eyes were opened to a lot of things that I was interested in, things I never knew that I would be interested in. All of a sudden, I wanted to try out investments and the world of finance. I wanted to live in a big city and do something creative. When I graduated from Dartmouth I had a lot of opportunities and so my life steered in the opposite direction of basketball for a while, but the feeling of wanting to get back in the game and coach and wanting to impact people's lives never left me.

I was in the corporate world for about 10 years and I had an opportunity where I was thinking 'You know what, I either get back into coaching now or just make peace with the fact that I'm never going to get into coaching.' Ultimately I decided to follow my heart and my passion and get back in the game and here I am."

Rewalt jumped back onto the basketball scene at William and Mary in Virginia during the 2009-10 season, helping mentor five All-CAA players for the Tribe.

Schram's never really left the game, she just moved across the ocean to join the international scene.

The Batesville, Ark., native, continued her decorated basketball career in Hveragerdi, Iceland after her graduation from Dartmouth. She played professionally for Hamar in Iceland's premier league. She earned conference All-Star honors and led the ball club to the league championship series.

Upon her return to the States, Schram had a unique opportunity to come home -- to Dartmouth.

"Being back at Dartmouth means the world to me. Dartmouth is my home away from home and now it's really my home. I love this program, I love the staff and I love the players we're working with right now. It means everything to me to be able to come back and make a difference in a program in which I hope I made a bit of a difference in as a player. Now I can make a difference on the other side of the table."   

Head coach Chris Wielgus has been the recipient of this good fortune to have not one, but two former players come home.

"They came back so different. They were no longer the wide-eyed players I had coached, waiting for a game to break out but instead they were grown up and full of life experiences and knowledge. Both are very eager to take on the challenges of Division I basketball at an Ivy League school."

Wielgus had seen both Rewalt and Schram grow into coaches but her former players, while admitting that Wielgus hasn't changed too much, also see the evolution of the coach.  Rewalt describes Wielgus as "timeless"

"She looks the same as she did when I was here and I think she looks the same as she did when she started in the 70s.  She has so much energy, she always has, and she is hysterically funny so there are some things about her that never change.

That said, her basketball knowledge continues to grow. Every single day, she makes it a point to do research on something basketball-related. Her basketball knowledge keeps growing and she is truly a remarkable teacher of the game and of the fundamentals, but she also has evolved to learn more about different systems and ways of teaching to try and impact the players because the student-athletes change. She evolves and adapts with them." 

Schram has also noticed her former coach growing and evolving as the times change.

"Chris is the type of coach that is always growing and always evolving. She's always reading about the new techniques to use with the players, new training she can use even nutritional facts. She's always evolving and I love that about her. She's going to give 100% to try and make the program the best that she can and to give the players the best experience that she can.

One thing about Chris that will never change is that she is a competitor. She loves the game and loves the program. She's going to go down fighting no matter what type of situation it is." 

The Dartmouth women's basketball team considers themselves family and you need not to look any further than in the stands of Leede to see former players and coaches cheering on the Big Green throughout the season. It's a feeling that Rewalt and Schram are hoping to impart to the current players.

Schram, being not too far removed from donning the Green and White, considers herself a resource for the current players from everything to classes to basketball stuff.

"I think that in any situation, having someone who has gone through it that can look at you and say 'I've been there, you're going to get through it'. Whether it's basketball, a class, a job, no matter what situation you're in, it's always comforting to have someone say 'I've been there, you're fine, this happens to a lot of people.' I think the players like that, especially with having such a young group of kids.  It's very reassuring to them."

Rewalt also considers herself a resource for the Dartmouth student-athletes. She sees herself as someone who is able to push the student-athletes to get out of their comfort level, much like she did during her time at Dartmouth.

"Life at Dartmouth is unique. There are a lot of opportunities that you have here as a student that you don't have at other institutions given the quarter system and the additional organizations that help. The institution here is really and truly focused on the undergraduate education and experience. The fact that I've gone through it and I've done a lot of it is beneficial. I was out at USC Film School, I did a study abroad in Spain, and I did three different internships while I was here. I've experienced a lot of it as a student and I think I can help mentor our students to help explore different things and to try different things as far as exploring what you are learning and your knowledge base because you have an opportunity to be exposed to things that you've never thought about before college.

I also understand what it's like to try and balance everything. I understand that we're on shorter terms and although you are only taking three classes, you're taking exams constantly meaning that time management is exaggerated more here than other places. I definitely understand the Ivy League back-to-back play and how to prepare for that because I lived through it.  I understand that the Ivy League is truly a marathon and not a sprint so you can stumble, but you can't give up because it's such a long journey through the season. I can help kind of motivate and inspire the kids to just persevere through it."

Postgame speech

The Big Green defeats Ivy League foe, Columbia, 87-52, in the final game at Leede Arena and on senior night for senior forward Sasha Dosenko. Dosenko has been through the trenches with Schram. The two combined to win the Ivy League and played in the NCAA Tournament in 2008-09, Dosenko's rookie season.

"I'm so proud of Sasha, the strides she made from her freshman season to her senior year are extraordinary. I hope that the person that she became and the player that she became was a little bit because of what I did her freshman year. I'm proud of her and really happy that I got to spend her senior season with her."

Rewalt, a mentor to Dosenko during her junior and senior seasons, also saw a change in the Dartmouth senior.

"My best memory as a coach at Dartmouth was Senior Night this year. From when I started here, Sasha only had two years left, but to see the progress she made from then until Senior Night was amazing. Watching her in the last three months of her senior year, just step up and play great basketball was really special to witness and be a part of."

The dictionary also defines home as a place where your family is. A fitting description in this narrative because from the sounds of it Erin Rewalt and Koren Schram have definitely come home.