WEB EXCLUSIVE: Women’s basketball team still winless after losses to Westminster and Elmhurst

Kaliann Rikard
Webster University sophomore guard Kaliann Rikard dribbles during the Gorloks' 59-45 loss to Westminster College on Nov. 30 at Grant Gymnasium. Photo by Victoria Caswell.

The Webster University women’s basketball team dropped its fifth straight game to start the season, as Elmhurst College turned backed the Gorloks 64-58 on Dec. 3 at Grant Gymnasium. The 0-5 start is the worst for Webster since the 2006-2007 season, when the Gorloks also started 0-5

“I know 0-5 is awful and it’s embarrassing, but we are not giving up,” junior point guard Maggie Zehner said. “We just have to execute better and shoot better. This is definitely frustrating, but all of our goals at the start of the season are still obtainable.”

Webster jumped out to a 13-5 lead behind two baskets each by junior guard Gwen Williams and freshman forward Cassie Endicott, but the lead was short-lived. Webster coach Jordan Olufson went to his bench early and often, and the lead quickly evaporated.

Williams, Endicott and a third starter, junior guard Airyn Miller, all came out of the game with 16 minutes still left in the half. While the three starters sat on the bench, Elmhurst went on an 8-0 run to tie the Gorloks at 13 at the 13:07 mark in the half.

“We let them off the hook after we led 13-5,” Zehner said. “With players coming in and out, it’s hard to stay in the groove. Coach worries a lot about when starters come out and keeping intensity up when we go to the bench.”

All told, Webster played 11 different players in the game. Elmhurst led 24-21 with three minutes left in the half before Williams drained a 3-pointer to tie it at 24. After that, the Blue Jays took control of the boards and surged to a 30-24 halftime lead. Elmhurst outrebounded the Gorloks 25-19 for the game.

In the second half, Webster fought back to take a 48-41 lead with nine minutes left in the game. But the Blue Jays, behind the hot shooting of senior forward Meghan Merklein, went on a 9-1 run to pull back ahead 50-49 with less than six minutes left.

“The last six minutes, we fell apart,” Williams said. “We really should have won the game.”

Merklein, who was nearly unstoppable down the stretch, finished with 27 points on 8 of 14 shooting from the field and 10 of 10 shooting from the foul fine. She also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.

Zehner cut the Elmhurst lead to 59-58 with less than a minute left with another 3-pointer. But the Blue Jays answered with five straight points to close out the game and secure the victory.

“We beat ourselves,” senior forward Tori Fenemor said. “They started making uncontested shots and ours weren’t falling.”

Williams had another fantastic performance, as she led the Gorloks with 17 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Williams improved her team-leading scoring average to 10.2 points per game. Playing only 12 minutes total for the game because of foul trouble, Endicott had 10 points and six rebounds. Zehner finished with 11 points, including 2 of 3 shooting from 3-point range.

Three days before the Elmhurst game, Webster lost to Westminster College 59-45 at Grant Gymnasium in a highly-anticipated rematch of last season’s St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship, which was won by the Gorloks.

Williams said it was a tough week losing to a conference rival like Westminster and a home game to Elmhurst.

“We can’t play the games over again,” Williams said. “I don’t know what it is, but we are tired of letting our fans down.”

Webster will travel to Holly Springs, Miss., to take on Rust College on Dec. 10. The Gorloks return home the next day to face Austin College in another nonconference test.

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