Kalamazoo Valley's women's basketball coach steps down after 20 years
March 27, 2015
First hired as a basketball camp coach by Dick Shilts in 1992, Welch was hired in April of 1995 as the new KVCC women’s head coach.
The 1997-98 team became the first Kalamazoo Valley women’s basketball team to record double digit wins as they went 12-15 and followed that season up in 1998-99 with the school’s first ever +.500 record at 16-13 – and their first ever qualification for the MCCAA State tournament after a fifth place finish in the league.
In the 1999-2000 season the Lady Cougars had their best ever finish (up to that point) in the Western Conference finishing third behind Muskegon and Lake Michigan for a #3 seed in the MCCAA tournament. They proceeded to advance to Welch’s first MCCAA Final Four and beat Western Conference Champ, Muskegon, for KVCC’s first MCCAA “State Championship”, finishing the season with a 23-6 mark – with the 23 wins being a first for the program – and Coach Welch’s first MCCAA Coach Of the Year award.
With the advent of the 21st century, Welch would establish KVCC as the team to beat when competing for conference and Region XII, District ‘G’ national tournament berths.
In the last 15 years, Welch’s teams have won or shared the Western Conference crown 12 times. He has made 6 appearances in the MCCAA Championship game – winning the championship three times and losing three times. Again, his teams have been in the Region XII, District ‘G’ championship game ten times, with six of those teams moving on to National Tournament play. Welch’s teams are 13-6 in National Tournament play, having advanced as far as the National Semi-finals twice, only to lose close contests in those games.
For eleven years in a row, every incoming freshman in Welch’s program competed in the NJCAA National Tournament at least once, an amazing statement in its own right.
Welch has coached four All American players and several ‘Conference Player of the Year’ players in his tenure and has had 9 players move on to play at the Division I level. This does not take into account the many players that have been placed at Division II, Division III and NAIA levels in his 20 years at the helm.
Speaking with Coach Welch it will become apparent that he takes a lot of pride in what his program has accomplished academically as well as athletically. While overall numbers were not readily available, his pride in the many gals that have achieved ‘Academic All-American’ status and the teams that had team GPA’s over a 3.0 comes shining thru. It’s not just about the wins and losses with him.
Obviously with the championships there comes awards; for the program and for the coach. One of the awards Welch is the proudest of is the “B. J. Graber Sportsmanship Award that he and his team were given at the 2011 Division II National Tournament. He has been honored with the Western Conference Coach of the Year award 10 times, NJCAA Region XII, District ‘G’ Coach of the Year 6 times, MCCAA Coach of the Year 3 times and was also honored as the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan ‘Jr. College Women’s Coach of the Year’ on three different occasions.
Welch’s final head coaching record at Kalamazoo Valley was 432 wins and 178 losses for a .712 winning percentage. The last 15 years it has a 389-109 for a .781 winning percentage with his teams in the last five years winning 127 games and losing 25. During that stretch they were 66-2 at home.
KVCC women's basketball coach Ron Welch gets 400th win in Cougars' 84-44 victory over Jackson
February 20, 2014
on February 15, 2014 at 8:00 PM, updated February 15, 2014 at 8:07 PM
Coach Ron Welch’s team at Kalamazoo Valley have always been team-oriented and the win over a game, but outmatched visiting team from Jackson College was a good example of how effective that can be as they took an early lead and their depth off as the KVCC team rolled the Jets into submission 84-44. The Cougar bench outscored their Jackson counterparts 33-7.
The win was the 400th of Welch's 19-year tenure at KVCC.
The victory also helped the 17th ranked Cougars keep pace with league-leading and No. 7-ranked Lake Michigan, improving their record to 20-4 and 12-1 in the Western Conference.
The local ladies took an early lead and never gave it up, running out to 49-25 lead at the half with a fine display of team work and balanced scoring. “It was a lot of fun to watch us share the ball and find the open player.” Praised Welch. “We didn’t have much to complain about during halftime as a staff. Just a few things to ‘tweak’ at both ends of the floor. We left them with the challenge of being better defensively in the 2nd half, which was going to be tough because we took the press off and forced them into playing solid half-court defense.” Consider the challenge accepted and met as the KVCC team held Jackson to 19 points on 22.6% shooting in the half, while scorching the nets at the other end for a solid 51.9% on 14/27 shots.
“We played to our strengths today I thought.” Said Welch. “And everyone was on the same page defensively. That’s probably the thing that brings me the most pride - our defense.” The Cougar defense turned Jackson over 29 times and held them to 25.4% shooting for the game.
Delton freshman Mallory Sewell led the locals with 16 points. Leading scorer Selena Martinez and Climax Scotts freshman Destiny Froberg each chipped in 13 and Destiny’s twin sister Fallon had 10 as the Valley team placed four in double figures. “We’ve gotten used to Selena scoring for us and she’d kind of been a ‘funk’ the last couple games, but today she was back to her old self.” pointed out Welch. “and Destiny got the start today because she’s been playing really well. I thought she responded well to the challenge...and what can I say about Mallory? She’s battling some physical issues, but when she’s right she’s one of the hardest players in our conference to guard. She looked pretty smooth tonight.”
Welch’s team appears to be rounding into shape and playing well at the right time. According to the Cougar mentor, “Next week’s a pretty important week for us. We go to Lansing for a tough road game on Wednesday, then - if we take care of business on Wednesday - have the opportunity on Saturday to even the score with Lake Michigan. Both of those games should be great games.” If the Cougars win out they will gain at least a share of the conference title for the 5th year in a row.
Kalamazoo Valley and Lake Michigan have distanced themselves from the rest of the league and turned the race for the conference crown into a two team race. LMC is 13-0, with the Cougars a game back at 12-1. Both teams have qualified for the District ‘G’ regional tournament regardless of the outcome of the league race.
KVCC's Bre Birmingham Named Third Team All American
April 13, 2013
Kalamazoo, Michigan April 13, 2013
Although her season with the Cougars didn’t end on a great note, Kalamazoo Valley Sophomore Breanna Birmingham has had a good week.
In addition to being named MCCAA Western Conference first team, All MCCAA and NJCAA Region XII All Region; Coach Ron Welch announced at the Lady Cougar basketball banquet that Birmingham had been named to the NJCAA Division II All American third team. She becomes the fourth All American player during Welch’s eighteen years at the Texas Township college.
“We’re very proud of what Bre has accomplished here at Kalamazoo Valley.” Praised Coach Welch. “She was an eager student of the game and was willing to ‘buy into’ the way we do things here. We couldn’t be happier for her!”
Birmingham contributed heavily to the Cougars winning their third straight Western Conference Championship and a 24-5 overall record; 14-2 in the conference. She averaged 12.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game for the Cougars, shooting a very solid 54.6% from the field for the year.
Shortly after receiving word of the high honors from the NJCAA, Birmingham made her commitment to the school she will be playing for next year; University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. “Bre visited down there the first week of April and absolutely loved the campus and the coaching staff.” Said Welch. “They are a program in transition, having been a strong NCAA Division II school, but beginning a new journey next year entering the Southland Conference as a new Division I member, playing against such schools as Oral Roberts, Lamar, Nichols State and McNeese State. They are excited about having her join them and expectations are high. I’m sure she will not disappoint.”
Tina Thurber records triple double in Cougars' OT win over Jackson, 100-95
January 23, 2013
KALAMAZOO, MI -- The track meet that is the Kalamazoo Valley – Jackson CC women’s basketball game every time they play ran a little extra ‘distance’ Saturday at Cougar Arena. It turns out the Cougars were the ones with a little ‘sprint’ left at the end, as they out scored the Jets 16-11 in overtime for a 100-95 win.
The 7th ranked Cougars moved their record to 15-1 and 6-0 in the Western Conference. Jackson falls to 9-9 and 3-2 in conference play.
“You can almost throw everything you normally do as a team out the window when you play Jackson,” said an emotionally and physically drained KVCC coach Ron Welch. “It almost becomes more of a game of wills. If you’d have told me we would turn it over 42 times, shoot less than 50 percent from the free throw line and foul them enough so they score 25 free throw points before the game, I would have told you we’d get beat. But we found a way to win and I’m really proud of the way the girls battled.”
The way they did it was by shooting well from the floor (48.1 percent), holding the Jets to 22.2 percent from behind the arc, and garnering a new school record 89 rebounds. The Cougars had four players with double digit rebounds, led by point guard Tina Thurber with 12, Roni Hayden and Lauren Leonard with 11 and Jackie Devereaux with 10.
But the stat line of the night belonged to Thurber. The East Kentwood freshman recorded only the second triple double in the tradition-rich history of the Lady Cougars with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
"Pretty special night for Tina," praised Welch. "She was forced to stay out there for extended minutes because of some foul problems, took the reins and led us. After the game I told her that now that I know she can do that, I expect it every game. She laughed."
Joining Thurber in double figures was a foul plagued Bre Birmingham with 14 points, with Roni Hayden and Molly Sleeman both tossing in 12. Chazsi Beckman and Selena Martinez added 9 each.
Jennifer Lofts breaks ten year old scoring record at Kalamazoo Valley
February 26, 2012
With the tradition of playing large numbers of players in game situations and spreading minutes among a lot of people. there was a lot of doubt in Coach Ron Welch's mind as to whether Danaea Williams 35 point explosion in the 2002 National tournament against Northwest Shoals would ever be broken as the KVCC single game scoring record. "We have had some players that probably could have approached that number, but the way we spread the minutes, plus the philosophy that we see no reason to embaress anyone by the final score tends to not offer that many opportunities." Explained Cougar Coach Ron Welch. "We believe strongly that those minutes after the outcome has been decided should be used to get valuable game experience for the younger players. That philosophy has served us well over the years."
That being said, Lofts 37 point explosion against the Jackson Jets was accomplished in just 27 minutes of playing time. The sophomore forward was almost perfect on the night, going 14/18 from the field and 9/11 from the charity stripe for her 37 points. Lofts, who's shooting 36% from three for the year did not attempt a three point shot. As if that was not enough, she gathered 13 rebounds, dished out 4 assists, had 4 blocks and 1 steal as her team outscored the high scoring Jets 124-104.
"Pretty special night for a special player." said Coach Welch, who is in his 17th year at Kalamazoo Valley. "Jen's such an unselfish player. She's not about individual records or accolades. The team success is formost in her mind and she is one of the hardest workers on a team that has a great team work ethic. Her teammates and our coaching staff are really pleased for her because of that. She brings it every day."