V for Victory: Junior guard makes her mark
If a college basketball team wants to contend for a national championship, it needs stars – plain and simple. Nobody will make a deep run without a go-to player or two who can be counted on to get the job done, and that’s apparent in today’s landscape.
The thing that sets the great teams apart from the elite teams, though, is having that one player who impacts the game without lighting up the scoreboard. Think Draymond Green – the glue guy.
At 17-2, the No. 15 ranked Grand Valley State women’s hoops squad is looking primed to make a run for a NCAA title and while there are players who light up the scoreboard and compile stars, they would not be in this position if it weren’t for redshirt junior guard Victoria Hedemark.
The five-foot-six-inch guard out of Dansville, Mich. narrowed her top two college choice to GVSU and Davenport, who, at the time, was coached by Mike Williams. She eventually chose the Lakers but was in for a surprise – Williams was hired by GVSU before her first year in blue.
“It was actually a very pleasant surprise,” Hedemark said. “Kind of the best of both worlds because I was deciding between Davenport and Grand Valley. It was really nice when he got hired to have a familiar face and knowing his coaching style was a little more comforting coming in as a freshman.”
As a defensive-minded coach, Williams’ philosophy matches Hedemark’s preferred style of play. After limited playing time as a redshirt freshman, she led the team in steals as a sophomore despite not starting a single game and scoring only 3.8 points per contest.
“(Defense has) always been something that you can control,” Hedemark said. “Offensively, you can always have a bad game of shooting or not being able to score but defensively it’s always something you, yourself, can control. I always think it’s something that I was able to put focus on. There’s not much skill that goes into it. It takes a lot of hustle and focus and tenacity. I do take pride in it and I do enjoy it so it makes it a lot easier.”
In the 2018-19 season, Hedemark and the GVSU defense is holding teams to an average of 52 points per game, which is good for seventh best in Division II and have kept opponents at or under 50 points in 11 of their 19 games.
Now a full-time starter, she plays more minutes but plays with the same tenacity that got her where she is. She continues to lead the team in steals but has jumped to fourth in scoring (8.1 points) and rebounding (4.1) per game.
On top of the continued effort and improvements offensively, her tenacity has spread throughout the team and inspired the rest of the Lakers to be better, too.
“I think she’s a leader by example,” Williams said. “The players see what she does and the humility and they see that ‘if V’s doing it, we need to do it.’ I think she’s a player that players like. She’s very positive.
“You win with players like her because they’re about the team and they’re about winning. It’s not a surprise we’re successful because of her.”
Hedemark’s role on the team expands past the hardwood, though; on road trips, she brings her Bluetooth speaker on the bus and serves as the team DJ.
“We’re a big top 40 type team so whatever’s on the radio I have to have downloaded on my phone because those always are the most popular requests,” she said. “A lot of Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, a lot of those are the big requests. We like it all. Playing defense is just a little bit harder (than playing the music).”
As a senior academically, Hedemark could feasibly opt to graduate and be on her away after this season but has every intention to return to GVSU for her fifth year and final season on the court in pursuit of GLIAC and Division II titles.