Snowbirds find a home: Gehring and Weitzeil have been solid additions for Mesa State women

Amy Weitzeil, left, and Tara Gehring, right, both came to Mesa State from Snow College in Utah. The juniors have flourished with the Mavs, with Gehring providing offense off the bench and Weitzeil doing the dirty work inside. The two became close at Snow and have continued their friendship at Mesa State, rooming together.

Coaches can spot a player anywhere, especially on the opposing team.

When the Mesa State College women’s basketball team scrimmaged Snow College last season, there was an underlying reason.

Coach Roger Walters knew he needed to beef up his roster after his first year, so what better way than to play a good junior college and see some sophomores who would be looking for a four-year school?

He figures he hit the jackpot with the two “Snowbirds” the Mavericks signed, 6-foot-1 post Amy Weitzeil and 5-9 guard Tara Gehring.

“They just kind of stood out to us as obviously really talented players,” he said. “Then after getting a chance to visit with them and finding out what kind of kids they were ... they’re just such special kids, nice, nice kids with great morals and ethics and want to get a great education.”

Weitzeil and Gehring made their recruiting trip together, are now roommates and have some classes together. There was a sense of security in knowing someone on their new team.

“We came down together on our recruiting trip and we were both nervous,” Weitzeil said.

“We definitely wanted to go somewhere together. We met at Snow and became close friends and we thought it would be fun to go somewhere together.”

Shy off the court, Gehring and Weitzeil leave that behind when they suit up for the Mavericks (11-6, 8-5 RMAC), who play at Regis (7-10, 6-7) on Friday and Metro State (16-1, 12-1) on Saturday.

The two didn’t play the Roadrunners the first time the teams met, when Metro won 58-53.

Members of the Mormon church, they abstain from playing on Sundays.

“When we came on our recruiting trip we made sure to let (Walters) know and he said, ‘Well, I don’t know that we have any Sunday games, we usually don’t, but if we do, we’ll respect your decision,’ ‘’ Gehring said.

“He told us that right from the start. That was really comforting.”

As it turned out, the Mavericks had two Sunday games this season.

“It’s definitely hard not knowing how your teammates and coaches will react and it’s been very nice knowing they respect (the decision),” Weitzeil said. “Nobody’s said anything bad about it or anything. Of course it’s hard because you don’t want to be letting your team down, but our beliefs come first.”

And Walters agrees.

“By them choosing their faith above everything, that makes them pretty special people and I respect them even more than before,” he said.

Gehring averages 9.3 points a game off the bench. She can score in a number of ways, coming off screens or pulling up in transition for jumpers, and her long legs cover a lot of ground when she drives to the basket.

Her breakout game was at CSU-Pueblo, when she hit 5 of 7 from the 3-point line and scored 22 points.

“She can flat-out score,” Walters said. “Those nights she’s feeling it, like at CSU-Pueblo, she’s unstoppable. She’s got a lot of those games left in her.”

Weitzeil, who averages 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds a game as a starter, does the dirty work inside. She’s been a solid defensive player all season, and the past three weeks has gotten more and more involved in the offense.

She’s scored 10 points in each of the past three games and had her first double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds against Colorado School of Mines.

“I like playing defense; I think it’s fun,” she said. “Trying to stop someone from doing a move is always a lot of fun.”

That attribute stood out to Walters.

“She was a really special post defender and we needed that presence bad,” he said. “She’s the ultimate blue-collar kid who does everything at a high level.”

With only three players returning who got playing time last season, most of the Mavericks were in the same boat when the season began. Mesa starts one senior, one junior and three sophomores.

“I had no idea what to expect, who our teammates were,” Weitzeil said. “That was kind of hard. I just wanted to work hard and play the best I know how to play.”

The Mavericks didn’t set team goals, Gehring said, they just want to keep improving — and winning.

“I just wanted to do anything I could to help the team,” she said. “It was a fresh start, in a way, for the whole team.”


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