Webster University’s women’s basketball team suffered its second loss in the past eight games when the Gorloks fell 67-59 to Fontbonne University on Jan. 21 in Clayton. The two teams combined for 47 turnovers in the sloppily-played contest.
“We had been playing as a team and much better until we laid an egg against Fontbonne,” junior guard Maggie Zehner said. “When we struggled so much early in the season, it really helped us get mentally tough. We’ll come back strong again.”
Despite the loss, Webster coach Jordan Olufson said his team is playing with more focus and now has a solid playing rotation. He said that’s especially the case since the Gorloks’ loss to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology on Dec. 19. It was the Gorloks’ eighth loss in nine games to start the season.
“We are now getting scoring from four, five, six and seven players we put on the floor,” Olufson said. “We really focused on following up with our steals with quicker transition play, and our defense has been great.”
Against Fontbonne, Webster played its second consecutive game without leading scorer — junior guard Gwen Williams — who has been suspended indefinitely because her academic standing falls below the Webster athletic department’s eligibility guidelines.
Without Williams, the Gorloks have struggled the last two games. Although they squeezed out a victory at Greenville, 50-46, on Jan. 18, Webster committed 23 turnovers. The Gorloks also had 25 turnovers in the loss to Fontbonne.
“Losing Gwen hurts,” sophomore guard Kaliann Rikard said. “It would be stupid to say it doesn’t.”
Williams is currently the Gorloks’ leading scorer at 9.7 points per game and is third in the SLIAC in steals with 2.7 per game.
“I think not having Gwen is hard on everybody, because she was a big part of our team,” Zehner said. “She could steal the ball like no one else can.”
In the loss to the Griffins, freshman forward Cassie Endicott had nine points and 10 rebounds, but played only 18 minutes because of foul trouble. Junior guard Airyn Miller led the Gorloks with 13 points.
Against Greenville, the score was tied at halftime 23-23. With no team ever leading by more than three points, the Gorloks finally moved ahead for good when senior guard/forward Megan Willett hit a pair of free throws to put Webster up 46-44 with 1:11 left in the contest. Webster hung on for the win despite shooting 26 percent as a team from the field in the second half.
Zehner led the Gorloks with 13 points and nine rebounds against Greenville. Endicott had 11 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked four shots in the win.
“We have made good progress since the first of the year,” Rikard said. “We are finally hitting shots and playing good defense. In fact, our defense has played well all year. Even in the games we lost, our defense kept us close.”
The loss to Fontbonne ended the Gorloks’ three-game win streak and dropped them to fourth place in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings. Webster is behind third-place Fontbonne, Eureka College and undefeated Westminster College. The top four teams qualify for the SLIAC post-season tournament.
Webster is 5-3 in the SLIAC and 7-10 on the season. Next, the Gorloks play at winless Blackburn College on Jan. 28. They complete a four-game stretch on the road with a contest at Westminster on Feb. 1.
“We are now used to playing the other schools in the conference and the team is coming together,” Olufson said. “I’ll tell you, we are doing a lot better than we were in November and December.”