No snow days for GVSU women's basketball
GVL / Hannah Mico. Freshman guard Taylor Lutz defends the Lakers’ basket during GVSU’s game against Findlay on Saturday.
Grand Valley State University students were welcomed back from a month-long holiday hiatus to drifts of lake effect snow. White, fluffy drifts that Laker students cashed in for two consecutive snow days to start the semester.
Two extra days off, to do with as they may. To stock up on supplies; shovel, gloves, frozen pizza, thick socks, winter beverages – check. To make a list of activities for the day; start a snowball fight, drink hot chocolate, have a movie marathon, and since you have to shovel the drive anyways, put your work to good use and build a fort.
Two extra days off to play and stay snowed-in and not go to class. To catch up on sleep. To do anything. Despite the snow and temptation to take an extra day or two off, the GVSU women’s basketball team devoted a portion of their snow days to practice.
“It was awesome,” head coach Janel Burgess said. “It was a very good day again. We’re always getting better.
“Right now our biggest objective, what we’re doing in practice every day, is getting better, continuing to compete against each other and we’re working to make every day count. No days off.”
In 10 games this season, the Lakers are 7-3 (5-1 GLIAC) and have made marked improvements since the beginning of the season as they’ve integrated seven newcomers into the program.
Three different Lakers – a transfer, sophomore guard Bailey Cairnduff, a returning starter, senior guard Dani Crandall and a freshman, forward Piper Tucker – have combined to average 30.8 points and 15.6 rebounds per game. The team has also had four different leading scorers so far, and frequently rotates starters.
“We don’t have what I would classify as a superstar player,” Burgess said. “I think we have a lot of young ladies that are very, very talented and can make plays in any situation.
“It’s a joy to coach these kids because they’re getting better every week, individually (and) as a team, and our job as coaches is to give each kid that we know is prepared an opportunity to compete and all of those kids are taking that opportunity and rolling with it. We’re seeing different kids succeed out of that situation every week.”
Part of the winning equation in the early season has been the stellar play of the five member freshman class, headlined by Tucker and forward Kayla Dawson. Tucker has averaged 21.5 minutes per game, Dawson 12.9.
“It’s been fun,” junior point guard Meryl Cripe said. “They work hard and they want to learn. We have a good time. They listen. It takes on a different role for us upperclassmen. We have to teach a lot more, but it makes it fun.”
With 16 games left in the regular season, beginning with a double-header that will start tonight with a 5:30 tip against Walsh, GVSU will need every game to compete with a very well-balanced group of eight teams that comprise the GLIAC North division.
No one game bigger than another. No one day, not even a snow day, that can derail resolve to make forward progress.
“I think we’re back on track to where we were at the beginning of the year when we thought we were climbing the hill,” Crandall said. “We were getting closer and closer to where we wanted to be and it feels like we kind of took a little bit of a step back with the (University of Indianapolis) game, but in all reality they’re a great team and we didn’t play our basketball.
“We feel like we’re back on track, headed in the right direction and we know that, especially in conference play, it doesn’t matter who’s at the top or bottom of the standings. Everyone’s going to try and play their best, and we need to play our best against everyone else’s best.”
Just like a snow fort built from a mounded base, a basketball team is only as good as its foundation. Like a snow fort, teams also get stronger as they melt together and reach loftier height as they continue to build.
And while GVSU students crafted fortresses, the GVSU women’s basketball team built, too, running drills to emphasize defense and smooth ball movement on offense to continue to define a season and a program.
“I think consistency is always going to be the biggest thing we’re pushing for,” Burgess said. “Consistency with a defensive focus. I think in order to be truly successful in these last 16 games, and I’m talking success as in pursuing GLIAC championships and so forth, you have to play defense. When we defend, we succeed and when we’re succeeding on defense, everything else opens up and takes care of itself.
“I need our leaders to lead, our upperclassman to continue to push themselves and others to continue to perform and I need a collective team effort to help us grow, to help us focus and to define our season.”