GVSU women’s basketball looks to end Ashland’s 61-game win streak at home

GVL / Emily Frye 
Basketball vs Wayne State University at the DeltaPlex Arena on Thursday February 8, 2018.

GVL / Emily Frye Basketball vs Wayne State University at the DeltaPlex Arena on Thursday February 8, 2018.

Brady McAtamney

Some might consider it a blessing. Others may see it as a curse.

For the Grand Valley State women’s basketball team, it’s an opportunity.

On Thursday, Feb. 15, the undefeated and reigning National Champions, the Ashland Eagles (24-0, 16-0 GLIAC), will soar into Allendale riding their historic 61-game winning streak—a count that includes several victories over the Lakers.

“I think they’re excited for the challenge,” said GVSU head coach Mike Williams. “I think they have so much respect for Ashland, which I think is a good thing for how hard they play and how well they’re coached. I think they’re just excited to play, and I think from a coaching standpoint, we’ve got to keep that going.”

The Eagles possess the best scoring offense in the NCAA with 102.9 points per game, more than 3 points higher than the next highest team.

With a victory over the top-ranked team, the Lakers would almost certainly find themselves back in the national rankings and gain some serious traction regionally.

“We beat a good team like that and it might have an impact in the regional rankings,” Williams said. “It gives you obviously a belief; our players believe we’re good enough to beat this team. It gives you a belief that if you get a chance to play them again in the tournament that you can beat them.”

As far as the players are concerned, the game that most teams in the country would find nearly unwinnable is no more out of reach than any other matchup GVSU has had this year, even though they lost by 16 to the Eagles in early January.

With confidence and belief in themselves and each other, the Lakers are buying into what Williams and associate head coach Phil Sayers are preaching.

“Just as long as we go in and we do all the little things right, stay disciplined on what the coaches want us to do on the offensive end and defensive end, I think we can go into it pretty confident, but, at the same time, just be ready to know that it’s going to be a battle,” said center Korynn Hincka. “They press the whole game, so we just have to stay focused on breaking that press and small things like getting the two feet; not making one-handed, crazy passes; and making sure that we actually see a pass before we pass it, see that it’s there.

“And then on the defensive end, just staying disciplined and knowing that we have to get back a conversion if we turn the ball over and just all the small little things that need to be done right.”

Williams noted that there are “about 15” keys to victory for the Lakers that they have broken down into three key categories: make good decisions with the basketball, stay in front of your player while not allowing them to start moving downhill and own the paint.

While the opportunity to end the Ashland streak is certainly the biggest game for the Lakers this week, it’s not the only major event taking place.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, GVSU will host the Tiffin Dragons (8-16, 4-12 GLIAC) and celebrate Senior Day.

While this year’s class is only two players—Hincka and forward Taylor Parmley—compared to last year’s six, it is apparent that the pair of post-dominant bigs have enough heart and character for an entire team.

“They’re two unbelievably special people, and I think two things about them,” Williams said. “Both of them had to endure season-ending injuries which, and how they bounced back, to me, is really impressive. Just to stay the course and to battle back from an injury, it’s almost like they didn’t even get hurt. Number two, I think to provide the leadership they did having only two people in that senior class, there was a lot dumped on their shoulders. 

“You lost six solid senior leaders, and to see the job they did keeping this team together and keeping them believing how good we can be and getting our team to come work as hard as they do every day has been impressive.”

For Hincka, the feeling borders on unbelievable heading into what is sure to be an emotional afternoon.

“It’s crazy that, like, it’s here,” Hincka said. “You go freshman year, like, ‘Oh man, four years, that’s a long time,’ and then you get to senior night and it’s almost unbelievable that you’ve gotten to this point. I might cry. 

“Parm and I came in as freshmen and we roomed together. I was a little scared of her at first, but we’ve just become best friends. She’s my best friend. The chemistry that we have on the court and off the court. That’s all I can say is we’re best friends.”

Tipoff against Ashland is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15, while the Tiffin game is set for 3 p.m. in the Fieldhouse Arena.