By Jonah Bronstein
Niagara Gazette — When Nate Beutel took over as Niagara County Community College women's basketball coach this past summer, one of his first priorities was to check on the status of former Wilson High School star Jessica Curry.
His second priority was to help Curry land placement in NCCC's radiation technology program and land his first signature recruit as a college coach.
Curry, a two-time all-Gazette player and seventh-team all-state selection in her senior year at Wilson, is resuming her career after one injury and illness-plagued season at Geneseo and a year away from the game.
"When I stopped playing at Geneseo, I thought I wasn't ever going to play again," Curry said. "But I missed it so much and when this opportunity came up, I took it."
Beutel was also able to convince Kristine Ripson, another two-time all-Gazette player from Lew-Port and the Region III volleyball player of the year for NCCC this past fall, to return to the basketball floor.
"Those two assets for us are huge," Beutel said. "They were both double-double players in high school and I expect similar things here."
Beutel is also expecting contributions from former Niagara-Orleans all-stars Courtney Murray (Wilson) and Ashtin Fiegel (Akron) and Nthanda Longe (Tapestry Charter).
A Sanborn native, Beutel was lured to NCCC from Grand Island High School, unable to pass up an opportunity to return to the college game. He coached the junior varsity men at Medaille before spending two seasons leading the Vikings.
"I've known Nate for a long time and have wanted to get him in our program," said athletic director Bob McKeown. "He's a very hard worker and he knows Niagara County as well as anybody. He's going to be a great recruiter for us."
Beutel replaces Erin (Whitehead) Stillman, also the Thunderwolves softball coach, who led the program through the offseason after the previous coach, Kirk Zinermon, was dismissed. He hired former D'Youville player Kaitie Rowland as his assistant.
The Thunderwolves open their season at 5 p.m. tonight against visiting Finger Lakes CC.
"Our goals are twofold," Beutel said. "The first part is where we have to outwork the other team and improve every day and be mentally stronger so that we can get to the second part of our goals, which include, most importantly, winning the games, and wining more games than any NCCC team has done in the past decade here."