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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Women’s basketball kicks off Conference season

On, Wisconsin! The Grinnell Women’s Basketball Team heads north this weekend to start the conference season against some tough competition. The Pioneers take on defending Midwest Conference crown (and #21 nationally ranked) St. Norbert College on Friday, followed by the 2008 MWC champions Ripon College on Saturday. Although they will have to make some adjustments due to recent events, Head Coach Kate Gluckman and her players are geared up.

“This will be one of the hardest weekends—why not start with the biggest challenge and see how we fare?” she said. “It will be a real test, and we’ll learn where we need to grow.”

With three solid non-conference games already under their belts, the Pioneers feel well prepared to take on this weekend’s challenge.

“The first three games have prepared us for the start of our conference schedule by throwing different defensive schemes at us, and each team has posed interesting defensive challenges for us as well,” said co-captain Jessica Vaverka ’11. “So I am hoping we can take these lessons into the upcoming conference games.”

Gluckman also emphasized the competitiveness that her Pioneers have demonstrated so far this season, particularly in their opening tournament at Lake Forest College in which they squeaked out a one-point victory against Rockford College and put up tough fights against Lake Forest and Wartburg before falling by small margins.

“Because of our improvement, we’re going to be in a lot of close games. I remind the team that we want to win, but we also want to be in the close games, because it’s not something we’ve experienced, and so I consider [the Lake Forest and Wartburg games] a positive,” Gluckman said.

The Pioneers will present a slightly different face this weekend, due to an ankle injury that has sidelined standout co-captain Brianna Gallo ’11 for the time being.

“Brianna is a rock for us,” Gluckman said, but she cited many other players ready to step up, including Abby Jaeger ’14, who take the reins as point-guard, Michelle Briggs ’13, who has snagged 32 boards on the season and Vaverka, who “is able to dictate the game from the post position,” according to Gluckman.

Tolu Alabi ’13 has also shown great improvement according to her teammates, and is expected to contribute to a team that is ready to make a statement in the MWC.

“Being competitive this weekend will be a boost in team dynamic because … we are still adjusting to new positions due to recent happenings, but overall our team dynamic is optimistic about our future,” Vaverka said.

Optimism and dynamism will the serve the team well as they take on the hardest part of their schedule during the hardest weeks of the academic year.

“It’s a tough time academically, with the culmination of first semester and so we’re learning how to focus on the court and relax when we’re off it,” Gluckman said. “It’s the time of the year when the title of student-athlete is most applicable.”

The team will revel in a short break from games and practice during finals week, but many people may not know that the women’s and men’s basketball teams cut short their winter break and hunker down on campus for four weeks as they carry on their season.

“Campus is almost empty except for us and the men’s team, so we go to practice, cook our own food and watch a lot of movies,” said Karen Gogins ’13. “It’s kind of lonely, and it’s freezing!”

So while they look ahead to team bonding time and building up some hardiness over winter break, the team will have to go all in with what they’ve got this weekend.

“Wisconsin is a cold place this time of year, “Gluckman said. “We have to be prepared to go in as team, and play as a team.”

Catch the Pioneers in action at home next week after they return from their northern conference leg, as they take on Knox College on Wednesday, Dec. 8, at 5 p.m. in Darby Gymnasium.

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