We’re only seven games into the Webster University women’s basketball season. Seven games in, and already the Gorloks have been faced with a big obstacle to overcome.
The team took an early season blow as sophomore forward/center Cassie Endicott went down with an ankle injury in a game against Augustana College (Ill.) on Nov. 24. Questions began to arise as to how this team would play without one of its star players.
So far, the Gorloks have done a good job answering those questions, and no one has answered them better than sophomore forward/center Jamie Buehrig.
When Endicott went down, Buehrig stepped up. The 6-foot-2-inch Buehrig had already seen playing time this season, averaging just less than 20 minutes a game prior to Endicott’s injury. She was effective coming off of the bench, but she has taken it to another level since she began seeing more playing time, averaging 31 minutes a game in Endicott’s absence.
In the first four games when Endicott was active, Buehrig averaged 6.3 points per game while hauling in 5.3 rebounds per game. In her first start, the first St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matchup of the season against Blackburn College (Ill.), Buehrig exploded with 20 points and 15 rebounds. She followed that up with a 10-point, 12-rebound performance at Greenville College (Ill.) in her next game.
I’d be remiss to not recognize how well another teammate is helping fill that void as well.
Junior guard/forward Courtney Pursley has been a factor so far this year. At 5 foot, 9 inches, she can be overlooked next to the towering Buehrig, but she’s putting up very similar production. Pursley has scored 8.9 points per game, and with 56 rebounds, she has just one rebound less than Buehrig on the season.
Pursley has more versatility to her game and she can hurt opponents in a lot of different ways. She’s aggressive in taking the ball to the rim, and that shows as she’s been to the free throw line more than any other player on the team. She makes the most of those opportunities by shooting 89 percent from the line, the best percentage on the team.
Webster battled to win the game in which Endicott was injured, won comfortably against Blackburn, and then lost to Greenville by two points in overtime. The women’s team was blown out at home Monday night against a talented University of Dubuque team, though with the tough non-conference schedule Webster normally schedules, this is probably more of an aberration than a trend.
Now this is all not to minimize Endicott’s injury. She’s a very valuable member of this Gorlok team. Watching her as I broadcast the first few games of the season, she looked markedly improved from last year, and she looked poised for a breakout season. That can still happen as it’s expected that Endicott will play again this year.
If there’s a silver lining to this situation, it’s the timing. The women’s basketball team doesn’t play another SLIAC team until Jan. 5, 2013. It only plays five games in the month of December. This gives Endicott good time to heal in hopes of being healthy for the more crucial portion of the schedule later in the season.
It also gives coach Jordan Olufson a chance to test the frontcourt depth on his roster. If Buehrig continues playing at this level, it would be tough to reduce her playing time when Endicott returns. From watching his teams and talking with those familiar with his strategy, I know Olufson prefers a more guard-oriented strategy. If he has a healthy Endicott to go along with Pursley and Buehrig, I’ll be interested to see if he changes that strategy at all. I’m thinking ahead though.
For now, the Gorloks just need to focus on what they have and how to make the most of it.