Womens Basketball Looking For More After Injury Fraught Season
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
By Chaz Amidon
KNIGHTS LOOKING FOR MORE AFTER INJURY FRAUGHT SEASON
After faltering in the first round of the MIAA Tournament last season – their first time doing so since 2002-03 – the Knights will look to compound experience and a promising freshman class in hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the John Ross Era.
Buttressed by a roster of seven seniors, including preseason All-American Marcia Harris (Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Christian), Calvin heads into the 2008-09 season looking to improve upon its third place finish in the MIAA a year ago.
“It’s a very talented group,” said Ross, Calvin’s sixth-year head coach. “I think this group wants to try to prove that they can win and be succeed. They have worked really hard on their fitness level and now it’s time to put it on the court to see what they can do.”
The Knights finished their 2007-08 campaign with an overall record of 15-9 and a conference mark of 11-5. It was the only the second season during Ross’ tenure where Calvin finished third in the league.
Fraught with injuries for most of the year, the Knights were handed a pair of losses by Hope, Albion and Adrian – the squad that dealt Calvin a heartbreaking 59-58 loss in the first round of the MIAA Tournament on Feb. 26.
“We can’t be using injuries for excuses anymore,” said Ross. “We just have to be healthy and…need to go out there and compete and play hard.”
POINTS IN THE POST
Harris, who averaged 18.0 points-per-game last season in a comeback year, is said to be near 100 percent after having reconstructive surgery on a torn ACL near the end of the 2006-07 season.
A three-time first team All-MIAA selection, Harris currently sits in sixth place on the Calvin career scoring list with 1,246 points. She has been named a pre-season All-American by Women’s DIII News.
Senior sharpshooter Kristi Brummel (Byron Center/South Christian), sophomore forward Kacy Cryderman (Dimondale/Holt), and senior utility guard Kelly Trewhella (Rockford/Rockford HS) are also reported as being injury-free.
Harris will headline a Calvin frontcourt complemented by senior shot-blocker Lauren Roodvoets (Caledonia/South Christian), junior Brooke Van Eck (Lowell/Lowell HS), senior Emily Schrotenboer (Byron Center/South Christian) and Cryderman, who averaged 4.5 points-per-game off the bench in only 11 games played last season.
“No matter what we do offensively, we’re still going to go through our posts,” said Ross. “We’re putting in an offense that allows us to play three posts at certain times.”
With an ample number of swing players, Ross plans to overload the paint with inside-out threats such as senior Sarah Partridge (East Lansing/East Lansing HS), who emerged as an offensive leader last year by pouring in 8.0 points-per-game, junior Amber Benthem (McBain/Northern Michigan Christian) and newcomer Courtney Kurncz (St. John’s/St. John’s HS), a 5-foot-11 freshman with the speed and versatility of a guard.
“We’re going to go with the same stuff offensively,” said Ross. “The only wrinkle we’re going to add is that we’re going to give our guards the ball in the post more and take advantage of our size. If everyone’s ready to go, we may switch our offense up.”
Brummel, Trewhella and senior Marissa Walker (Cedar Springs/Cedar Springs HS) will be looked upon to anchor Calvin’s perimeter game, which shot just 30 percent from three-point range last season. Brummel led the team with 27 three-pointers in 2008-09, while Trewhella was 50 percent (14-for-28) from beyond the arc.
POINT GUARD PIECE
But there is a one piece of Ross’ offensive puzzle that remains missing: a starting point guard. Nikki Zimmerman, a former transfer athlete from Grand Valley State, graduated in 2008, leaving vacant a floor-general slot that remains up-for-grabs among a myriad of contenders on Calvin’s squad.
Junior Emily Ottenhoff (Palos Heights, Ill./ Chicago Christian), a women’s soccer standout who received a good chunk of floor-time during her sophomore season, is considered a prime candidate for inheriting Zimmerman’s reigns – though, she won’t be available until the end of November.
Sophomore Leah Morrison (Chelsea/Chelsea HS) and freshman Leah Mattson (Cadillac/Cadillac HS) will also by vying for the Knights’ starting gig at point.
“Time will tell to see how the point guard position shakes out,” said Ross, who pointed out that even Brummel and Trewhella could potentially bring the ball up for Calvin.
Other key additions for the Knights include freshman Jill Thomas (Grand Rapids/West Catholic), a prolific outside shooter, and Cassie Kopke (Haslett/Haslett HS).
Ross’ focal point of improvement will be honed in on his defense, the MIAA’s second-best in 2008-09 by allowing merely 55.3 points-per-game to conference opponents.
“We’ve got to find people that want to defend,” said Ross. “That’s a huge weakness that we had last year. “As of right now positions are up for grabs for opening day.”
Calvin will begin its regular season with 10 consecutive away games before hosting Trine, along with the men’s team, on Jan. 7 for the inauguration of the Knights’ new Van Noord Arena. The Knights will head to Madonna on Nov. 15 for the season-opener, followed by a two-game tournament at Wisconsin Luther College on Nov. 21-22 before the league-opener at Kalamazoo on Nov. 25.
“We’ve got to get through the adversity of practicing in an unfamiliar facility for the first month,” said Ross. “Should we advance in the post-season, we’ll be road-tested.”