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Head Women’s Basketball Coach reflects on senior leadership
The Webster University women’s basketball team ended its regular season on the road Tuesday, Feb. 25 with a 57-52 victory against Fontbonne University. After Tuesday’s game, the Gorloks held a 16-9 overall record and 13-5 in conference record. Their conference record placed them fourth in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) standings.
With the conference tournament starting Friday, the Gorloks are the third seed going into the tournament due to Iowa Wesleyan College’s ineligibility for competition in the conference tournament. This was the Wesleyan Tigers’ first season in the SLIAC. According to the NCAA, as a SLIAC member during the NCAA provisional phase, the Tigers were eligible for conference regular season competition and awards, but were not be eligible to compete in postseason team tournaments.
The Gorloks will face the two seed Eureka College in the first round on Friday, Feb. 28, in Louisville, Ky., of Spalding University.
This year’s women’s basketball team is a young group with only two seniors — guard Kaliann Rikard and forward Courtney Pursley. The rest of the team consists of one junior, four freshmen and seven sophomores. As the only seniors on the team, Rikard and Pursley stepped into the main leadership roles for a young team.
Pursley and Rikard are four-year Gorloks. Webster women’s basketball team last appeared in the Division III NCAA tournament in 2010, Pursley’s and Rikard’s freshmen year. The two seniors plan to end their career with another NCAA tournament appearance.
The Journal sat down with Head Women’s Basketball Coach Jordan Olufson before Tuesday night’s game. Olufson was asked where the team stands and if he could reflect on the two seniors on the team.
Q & A
TO: How do you feel your team is playing right now going into the conference tournament?
Olufson: I think we’re playing well. Going into the year, I knew we were very talented and we were young. We ended up having a pretty good start to the season. We have gotten better and a little bit more mature, especially with the youth we have on our team. Overall, I’m very confident in our group going forward into the weekend.
TO: Kaliann Rikard and Courtney Pursley are the only two seniors on the team. How have they managed the leadership role this year with such a young team?
Olufson: You’re only as good as your seniors. When you have great seniors, you’re going to have a great year, and that’s what we’re having this year, because we have Kaliann and Courtney. I can’t say enough of Kaliann and Courtney and what they mean to our program and the reason we’re having a good year.
TO: Kaliann Rikard just broke Webster’s single season assist record last game against Eureka with 113 assists. What can you say about this accomplishment and Kaliann as a player?
Olufson: I always joke with Kaliann. I always say, ‘You’d probably have a lot more assists if we made more shots when you pass it to us.’ I think the growth Kaliann got is from her trusting her teammates in situations to hit shots. When you have somebody who can break a record of assists, it’s basically saying you’re giving up a chance to score for your teammate to score. That really tells you what kind of player she is and what kind of team we have. Being able to get her teammates involved on the offensive end with her passing is really critical to our success this year.
TO: What can you say about Courtney Pursley and her work ethic?
Olufson: Courtney is tough. She can score, and she can do it in a lot of different ways. She has put the time in, and I think she has kind of figured that out. I think it’s a testament to where we are as a program with Courtney showing up in the summer lifting and really making that a focal point of getting better and expanding her game. I mean, Courtney is just a kid that means a lot to us, not just point-wise, but in the locker room and what she brings to our table inside and outside the court.
TO: Finishing out the regular season Tuesday night, you can’t help but look ahead to the conference tournament. Playing Eureka in the first game, do you have a game plan going into the game?
Olufson: We have to play good basketball. We took care of business last home game against Eureka. I think that really helped to set the tone with momentum. If we can defend and run our offense, then I think we will be all right. We have to be able to come out and be ready to go. It’s going to come down to who wants it a little bit more. We have to do the little things because it all adds up to the big things.