Game Preview: Women’s basketball team gets ready for battle with Westminster

Jordan Olufson
Women’s basketball coach Jordan Olufson tells his players not to get down about their 0-3 record at the conclusion of a Nov. 28 practice at Grant Gymnasium. Olufson said he thinks his squad can hang with Westminster College. Photo by Brittany Ruess.

During last year’s regular season, the Webster University women’s basketball team lost to St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival Westminster College by 24 and 21 points. The Blue jays carried the 16-0 conference record and a No. 1 seed into the SLIAC tournament championship. The Gorloks were their opponent for that game.
Webster shocked Westminster 74-58 on the Blue Jays’ home court to win the title. The two rivals will meet for the first time since that game on Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. at Grant Gymnasium.
“I don’t see any extra incentive on my team to play this game any differently,” Westminster coach Tracey Braden said. “To me it’s just another game. My players are not talking about it and they are not nervous.
“We have a practice plan of things we want to accomplish. Whether it’s Webster or whoever, we plan and try to carry it out. It was no different this week.”
Webster players like junior point guard Maggie Zehner have a slightly different outlook.
“They are going to come in here hungry after what we did in the championship last year,” Zehner said. “They are starting to become a rival of sorts. They did not lose much, but neither did we.”
Westminster is 4-0 this year, while Webster has struggled out of the gate and is 0-3. The Gorloks have been plagued by poor shooting. They are shooting just 18.5 percent from the 3-point arc and 33.3 percent from the field.
Leigh Ann Lutz (15.3 points per game), Hannah Kloster (16 ppg) and Kenna Cornelson (15.3 ppg) lead a balanced scoring attack for the Blue Jays this year. Rachel Backes, last year’s SLIAC Player of the Year, is averaging fewer than seven points per game, but Braden said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“The strength of our team is the fact any player on any given night can step up and score,” Braden said. “Rachel Backes’ depth as a player is invaluable. She gives us so much in all areas of the game. You can’t put her in a box in just scoring. She leads, she gets steals and does the intangibles.”
Webster returns 14 players from last year’s squad, but is missing one of the greatest players to ever wear a Gorlok uniform in Katy Meyer, who graduated last spring.
Instead, Webster will count on four starters: Zehner (10 ppg), senior forward Megan Willett (7.3 rebounds per game), junior guard Gwen Williams (10.7 ppg) and freshman Cassie Endicott (7.0 ppg and 4.3 rpg) to carry much of the load.
“We are very excited and couldn’t be more pumped to play them,” Willett said. “We know they are mad because of what we did to them last year in the tournament.”
Willett said there is a fine line between excitement and overdoing it.
“We can’t cross that line and get too psyched up,” Willett said.
Webster coach Jordan Olufson is taking a similar approach to preparing for the game as Braden, and Olufson understands the importance of the game.
“I’m sure the girls will put a little more into the game,” Olufson said. “We have to get a win and protect our house.”
Although the winner of the game will take an early conference lead, it is only one small step toward winning the title.
“It’s just another game,” Olufson said. “We approach every game like it’s a championship.”

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