Preview: GVSU women's basketball looking for revenge during Upper Peninsula weekend road trip
Everything is going according to plan for Grand Valley State women’s basketball after they blew out Purdue Northwest 78-36 on Saturday, Jan. 27.
The Lakers are coming off excellent performances from guards Natalie Koenig and Jenn DeBoer, who combined to score 31 points and hit six 3-pointers in the win. Coach Mike Williams was very proud of the way his team took care of business against a team they were supposed to blow out.
“I thought we played really well last week,” Williams said. “I thought we played really well to start the second half, and we continued to play hard, so that was good to see.”
With the win, their record improves to 17-3 overall (10-2 GLIAC) as they sit tied for first atop the GLIAC North Division with Michigan Tech.
That top spot will be up for grabs as GVSU will travel to the Upper Peninsula this weekend for a rematch with Michigan Tech on Thursday, Feb. 1, and with Northern Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 3.
In order to prepare for two of the GLIAC's best programs, Williams is providing his team with some much-needed rest to keep their legs fresh and minds calm.
“We got to keep doing what we’ve been doing in the past to prepare for these teams, but I thought we needed to take Monday off,” Williams said. “A lot of our players have logged a lot of major minutes, and we’re trying to keep everyone’s legs fresh, so hopefully this rest helps.”
On Saturday, the Lakers will face the Wildcats of Northern Michigan for the second time this year. The Wildcats currently sit in the middle of the pack in the GLIAC. In their first battle, GVSU got the win in a 66-59 double-overtime thriller at home.
Northern Michigan has seen a lot of success out of their posts, as they have three girls who have averaged five or more rebounds in conference play this year: Lexi Smith, Taylor Hodell and Erin Honkala.
Rebounding isn’t Smith's only strength, however. She has also been averaging 14.7 points and shooting 45 percent from the field in conference play as a freshman. Coach Williams and the Lakers aren't taking this team lightly.
“They put the ball on the block, and they’ve got some really good posts,” Williams said. “Smith has been playing really well for them, and they are really solid when it comes to taking shots away for their opponents, especially on the perimeter.”
However, the more anticipated matchup is Thursday’s game against the Huskies of Michigan Tech. The first game had the Lakers taking a rough overtime loss during their DeltaPlex season opener. This time, the stakes have been raised, as the winner will take sole possession of first place in the GLIAC North Division and second overall.
The Huskies can pour in buckets from all over the court, as they are currently averaging 72.7 points per game. The roster is quite experienced and features three seniors who average more than 10 points: Kelli Guy (11.8 ppg), Lindsay Winter (12.2 ppg) and Brenna Hiese (11.8 ppg). Michigan Tech can score at will, but Williams has his girls ready for another shootout.
“They are the best offensive team in the conference, and they don’t turn the ball over a lot,” Williams said. “You’ve got to be on your toes because they can shoot it at any point in time, and they have been really good at getting to the rim.”
The Lakers are excited to get their revenge on the Huskies, but they’ll have to play at an almost perfect level to avenge their previous matchup.
“We’re excited to go up to the U.P. and see what happens,” Williams said. “It’s one of those things where we thought we played pretty well (the first game), but they just played better, so we got to play well up there.”
What makes these two matchups especially rough is the fact that GVSU will have a lot of traveling to do to get all the way up to the coldest part of Michigan. But the team is more excited for this road trip as it is a chance not only to bond as a team but also to prove themselves against some top-notch competition.
“This is a group that doesn’t mind a lot of travel since they love being together,” Williams said on the five-plus-hour road trip ahead for GVSU. “It’s really neat that most of their families will make the trek up there with us.
"They are of course excited to miss a couple days of school. So, yes, we’re pretty pumped for this road trip.”
GVSU looks to pick up two more wins and gain sole control of the crown in the GLIAC this week. Thursday’s game with Michigan Tech is set to tip off at 5:30 p.m., and Saturday’s game against Northern Michigan is set to tip off at 3 p.m.