Christian Zylstra – Staff Writer
The Dordt College Defenders women’s basketball team has had a season full of ups-and-downs, highs and lows, good wins and bad losses.
But even with such a roller-coaster season, all is not lost. The Defender women are in the thick of a tight race for the eighth and final spot in the GPAC Tournament coming up on Feb. 26.
So how did Dordt College end up here? An early season victory over no. 17 Grandview really set the tone for the season. Then, on a trip to the West Coast, Dordt played very well against an outstanding San Diego Christian squad, defeating them 71-61. A school-record 115 points against Nebraska Wesleyan certainly increased morale, and all of this was capped off last week by possibly the most exciting moment of the season, a last-second victory over then-ranked Dakota Wesleyan.
“That Dakota Wesleyan win will really help us out a lot coming down the stretch,” said Dordt College women’s basketball coach Craig Stiemsma.
With only a couple games left on the schedule, Dordt will have to play its best basketball of the season to beat out Doane and Briar Cliff to garner one of the final spots in the conference tournament.
“Every single game we play is really important,” Stiemsma said. “With only a few games left, every win and loss is magnified. Our postseason basically begins now.”
But wanting to get into the GPAC Tournament is not enough on its own. With a team featuring six seniors, the goal is so much more than simply qualifying.
“Our goal with these seniors would be to win it,” Stiemsma said. “The competition is tremendous, but we have the potential to beat any team. We want to win every game; we just have to fight, scrap and compete as hard as we can.”
With everything this senior core has had to go through, playing with heart will be not be a problem.
“All of our seniors have shown tremendous leadership this year,” Stiemsma said. “All of them have filled in different roles throughout the season. Four of them missed significant time from volleyball injuries, and they all have just fought, worked hard and shown some real attitude, effort and toughness for our team.”
While four seniors have missed significant time, there is the potential to have all seniors back some time before the end of this season.
“Elise Maresh, our leading scorer, has been out since Christmas,” Stiemsma said. “Danelle Boone has a concussion right now. With concussions, it’s tricky because you’re not sure when they’ll be cleared to play. They all could be back, at least that’s what we hope for, but that would be fun to watch and see.”
Through all the adversity, this Defender squad has never quit and never given up. Although the season has not been as steady and consistent as the coach would like, it certainly has been special.
Come on down to the DeWitt and cheer on your Lady Defenders as they fight for the final spot in the GPAC Tournament. Entering play on Wednesday, Dordt was positioned at 5-11 in conference, just half a game behind eighth-place Doane.