Against The Odds
Hope, excitement and momentum — those were the words to describe the feeling of the Webster University women’s basketball team in November as it prepared to begin the 2011-2012 season. Like any sport, the beginning of the season was a time of “new beginnings” and a feeling of “anything can happen.”
It was no different for the reigning St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament champs.
From the beginning of the season, it was a tough road for the Gorloks, and they found their best-laid plans didn’t always work out. However, when these women got knocked down, they came back fighting.
They discovered repeating as champions was like trying to catch Albert Pujols and all his $240 million before leaving the city. Or getting all your school financial aid taken care of without having to make one single phone call.
Now, before you all start screaming that I have it in for the women’s team — just hold on a minute. This is not a bash-Webster-women’s-basketball column. The Gorloks fought valiantly at times, but they have been their own worst enemy. I’ve seen firsthand the Webster faithful’s frustration with the team.
Before this season even started, Webster lost all-time great Katy Meyer when she graduated last season. The Gorloks felt the pain of that, as they started the season 1-8 and shot below 30 percent from the field in several games.
Then, conference play got going in January and Webster seemed to have new life and optimism.
Gwen Williams, a junior college transfer, played aggressively and with fire. She drove the basketball, made steals and dished out assists. She was a game changer. The Gorloks won five of six games behind Williams’ all-around play. She was a breath of fresh air the Gorloks desperately needed.
And then suddenly, Williams was gone. Williams ended up being ruled ineligible for academics for the rest of the season, and the team seemed lost without her. What next? Being snake-bitten is one thing, but this bite seemed to be lethal.
After the Williams suspension, the Gorloks dropped three out of four games and their record fell to 9-13. Webster tumbled to fifth place in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Gorloks’ shooting woes continued — as a team that once prided itself on drilling 3s, Webster couldn’t find the basket.
Freshman center Cassie Endicott showed she can block shots, grab rebounds and score in bunches. But most games, it seemed Endicott got into foul trouble. I‘d hear people at the games whisper, “If she could only stay on the floor, she’d be something.” How right they were.
The Gorloks were searching for answers. Coach Jordan Olufson was constantly making lineup changes and things never quite got there. On more than one occasion, it was not uncommon to see 13 to 14 players see action in a game. It just didn’t work, but the Gorloks never quit.
The Gorloks fought for pride and managed to win their last three regular-season games. They made it into the SLIAC tournament as the fourth seed.
One more time, they were knocked down — like a boxer in the 10th round who knows he can’t win, but keeps fighting. The Gorloks trailed eventual SLIAC champions Westminster College by only six at the half.
But Webster simply ran out of gas and scored a meager seven points in the second half. The Gorloks were blown out 69-34, and the 2011-2012 season came to a merciful end.
This Webster team will have no banner to hang in Grant Gymnasium. But the Gorloks can hold their heads up high, as they fought to the end and never gave up.