By John Philip Wyllie
At 17-2 and ranked seventh among the nation’s NAIA collegiate women’s basketball programs, Pt. Loma Nazarene expects to advance deep into postseason national championship tournament. A year ago the Sea Lions reached the quarter-finals. That won’t be good enough this time around for their returning senior All-American guard, Jessica Mercado.
“We went to the nationals the last two years and made it to the quarterfinals. This year, I think a national title is more within reach than ever before. We should go farther this year, at least to the final four,” Mercado said.
Mercado, a San Diego High graduate and four-time high school MVP, is the star on a team laden with talent. Mercado does it all for the Sea Lions.
For the second year in a row, she ranks among the nation’s best defensive players in steals and she is also leading her team in scoring, averaging nearly 18 points per game. Blessed with speed, quickness, agility and a combative mentality, Mercado is a formidable opponent.
“Offensively, she is very good at slashing and driving because of her quickness and her outside shot has really come on,” said PLNU coach, Bill Westphal. “She has had some games where she really has hit the threes. Jessica has been the spark for our success.”
Tough as nails at game time, Mercado is easy going and friendly off the court.
“Almost everyone on this campus knows her and she has got a smile for everyone. She has been a bright spot for our basketball team and for the whole school,” Westphal added.
Mercado has also been quite a success story. The daughter of two Dominican Republic immigrants, she was born in Boston, but grew up in one of San Diego’s tougher neighborhoods. In high school, she excelled at basketball and track, but had no real direction academically.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t know if I would be going to college or just working,” Mercado said. “It’s been a blessing being here at PLNU.” When she graduates in May she will be the first person in her family to have earned a college degree.
She hopes she can extend her career this summer by playing in the Dominican Republic. Several years ago, she played on a club team there and caught the eye of the people running their national team. They have been keeping tabs on her ever since. As the daughter of two Dominican Republic nationals, she would be eligible to represent the island nation on its national team.
Eventually, she would like to parlay her degree in media & communications into a broadcasting job and perhaps do a little coaching. She would also like to explore her Caribbean heritage and do what she can to help those less fortunate in the Dominican Republic. With one last shot a national title, those dreams will have to wait.