As the Webster University women’s basketball team sealed the 72-62 victory over the Spalding University (Ky.) Golden Eagles on Thursday, Feb. 7 at Grant Gymnasium, coach Jordan Olufson knew the win was special for more reasons than the playoff implications.
The team’s seniors — guards Airyn Miller, Gwen Williams and Maggie Zehner and team manager Luree Furr, who last played for Webster in the 2010-2011 season — helped the Gorloks earn a 10-point victory on senior night. The class of 2013 is Olufson’s first recruiting class at Webster. He said the victory thrilled him.
“When I got the job four years ago, they were my first recruiting class,” Olufson said. “They helped lay the foundation of the program. That means a lot to me to have these seniors, and for them to go out this way at home is fantastic.”
Zehner led the scoring for Webster with 21 points and 5 steals in the victory. Zehner is now fourth in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with 15 points per game (PPG). Williams also netted 16 points for the Gorloks.
The younger players and bench also aided Webster on senior night. Junior guard/forward Courtney Pursley chipped in 15 points to the total and 7 rebounds, second on the team to junior forward Lisa Adden’s 8. Pursley holds sixth place in the SLIAC with 8.1 rebounds per game. Webster out-rebounded Spalding 38-35, something Zehner felt was a key to the senior night win.
“It’s always good to win at home, and tonight was an emotional one for our seniors,” Zehner said. “It was exciting to come out on top and seal the deal. … We played as a team. We fought hard. We out-rebounded them.”
Webster had a challenge to contain one of the SLIAC’s top statistical players. Spalding forward Kelly Harrod came into the Feb. 7 contest with 10.3 rebounds per game and 18.4 PPG. Though Harrod scored 15 points in the first half, the Gorloks held her to only 6 in the second half.
“We tried to limit their shooting ability and try to match their (Spalding’s) runs,” Olufson said. “I thought the things that we needed to do we did a pretty good job of.”
Williams said the way Webster played in the team’s home finale led to the notch in the win column.
“Winning on senior night is probably the biggest thing in the world,” Williams said. “Today (Feb. 7) was like the best feeling. Everybody came in. The bench came in and scored. … The keys were just to come out and have a lot of intensity and play hard. That’s all that coach told us to do — just go out and play hard, and everything would come to us.”
The win against Spalding puts Webster’s overall record at 13-10 with a 10-4 mark in SLIAC play. That record has the Gorloks in second place in the conference behind Westminster College (Mo.) (14-9, 13-1 SLIAC). Following Webster in third and fourth places are Eureka College (Ill.) (13-8, 9-5 SLIAC) and Spalding (10-12, 8-6 SLIAC), respectively.
Williams said in terms of the standings, the home win over Spalding has an impact.
“Tonight’s win was really important because if we would have lost that one, we would have been in a sticky situation,” Williams said. “Winning tonight, it should be really good down the road. We got everybody else scared with us winning tonight, not by two (points) but by 10.”
Next up for Webster will be the final two games of the regular season. On Wednesday, Feb. 13, the Gorloks will travel to Fontbonne University (Mo.) to take on the fifth-place Griffins, who are not yet eliminated from the SLIAC championship tournament (8-14, 7-6 SLIAC). Tip off is at 6 p.m.
Then, on Saturday, Feb. 16, Webster will trek to Carlinville, Ill., to face off against the Blackburn College Beavers (3-19, 3-11 SLIAC). The Gorloks won their previous meetings this season with both the Griffins and Beavers.
Wins in these games could be a boon for the Gorloks, as each win helps solidify a berth in the SLIAC championship tournament, which begins on Feb. 21. Westminster clinched the No.1 seed for the tournament and will host.
Williams said the team needs to play with the same intensity it did on senior night, while Olufson said practice will help Webster keep a win streak going into the playoffs.
“I tell them, ‘You’ve got to stay focused one day at a time,’” Olufson said. “We’ve got two days of practice, then two more days of practice, so it’s going to be practice, practice, practice and work on the things we need to do and be ready for our next game.”