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The big rivalry heating up between two small, elite women's college basketball programs

John Carroll's women's basketball team
John Carroll University
John Carroll won the Ohio Athletic Conference with a 13-2 record last season, a COVID-19 year where there was no Division III NCAA tournament.

Baldwin Wallace University and John Carroll University have long been rivals. Separated by about 25 miles in Berea and University Heights, both schools are in the Division III Ohio Athletic Conference.

"They love to compete in anything," Terry Pluto said.

A coaching legend at BW
Baldwin Wallace has been a women's college basketball powerhouse, led by head coach Cheri Harrer.

She's in her 32nd year as coach and has amassed a 631-230 career record with a .733 winning percentage. She's had 17 teams that won 20 or more games and has taken her teams to the NCAA Tournament 15 times in her career.

This season, Baldwin Wallace leads the Ohio Athletic Conference with a 7-0 record, 10-2 overall. The team is ranked 11th in the most recent D3 top 25 rankings.

JCU's up-and-coming elite coach
Then there's John Carroll University, with a 6-1 record in the OAC, 11-2 overall. They're currently ranked 12th in Division III, just behind their rivals.

JCU won the OAC with a 13-2 record last season, a COVID-19 year where there was no Division III NCAA tournament.

"It used by that Baldwin Wallace dominated in women's hoops. Not anymore," Pluto said.

John Carroll is led by second-year coach Beth Andrews. The 28-year-old played for JCU from 2011-15 and was part of the school’s first two NCAA tournament teams. She said Harrer tried to recruit her to play at BW, but she picked her alma mater.

Baldwin Wallace women's basketball team with coach Cheri Harrer
Baldwin Wallace University
Cheri Harrer is in her 32nd season as coach of the Baldwin Wallace women's basketball team.

Andrews was an assistant under Kelly Morrone, who left JCU after seven seasons to coach at Merrimack College.

A focus on winning and academics
Pluto says Harrer and Andrews have similar qualities. Harrer has made Baldwin Wallace home, and Andrews plans to put roots down at JCU.

They both have a commitment to academics, a common thread in Division III where there are no athletic scholarships.

"The leading scorer at Baldwin Wallace and in the Ohio Athletic Conference is Lilly Edwards. She's studying to be a nurse and has a 3.7 GPA," Pluto said.

"Then you turn around and for John Carroll you have Olivia Nagy, a three-time OAC Defensive Player of the Year. She has a 3.7 GPA in accounting and did an internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers," Pluto said.

Pluto said with the Division III NCAA Tournament likely returning this year, it will be interesting to see what happens with the two schools.

"They both could make the tournament, and they both would like to try to make a run at it. And they're both good enough to dream," Pluto said.

Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. After serving as WKSU's Morning Edition host for a dozen years, she moved to afternoons in March of 2022 to become the local host of All Things Considered. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio's sports scene called The View From Pluto. She also hosts and produces Shuffle, a podcast focusing on Northeast Ohio’s music scene.