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GVL/Kevin Sielaff 
#23 Kayla Dawson

GVL / Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff #23 Kayla Dawson

Pete Barrows

Despite the graduation of star player Dani Crandall last season, the Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team has arguably developed into a better top-to-bottom team.

With a 7-3 record, it doesn’t appear to be a case of addition by subtraction, either.

“Dani was a big part of our success last season, but we’ve adapted our style and personnel to compensate,” Janel Burgess, GVSU coach, said. “Instead of setting up 3-point looks, we’re creating more simple inside-out shots.

“Instead of one main go-to player, we have several.”

What the lady Lakers, who finished 14-12 in 2013-14, have lost in Crandall – experience, leadership and skill – they’ve replaced with a more experienced sophomore class and a pair of transfers.

Sophomore Kayla Dawson is second on the team with a 13.2 point per game average, while fellow sophomore Piper Ticker leads the squad with 5.8 rebounds per game to go along with her 7.0 points.

Wisconsin-Green Bay transfer and junior point guard Brionna Barnett in turn leads GVSU in scoring with 13.8 points per game, while Saginaw Valley State University junior transfer Jammie Botruff, a forward, has contributed 4.9 points per game and 3.6 rebounds.

“Brionna Barnett is a very versatile, quick guard able to break down the defense from the perimeter,” Burgess said. “Jammie Botruff is a grinder inside, and all of sophomore players – Kayla and Piper in particular – have assumed larger roles.”

Another major factor in GVSU’s hot start has been the leadership of Kat LaPrairie, who is third on the team with 12.1 points per game and entered Sunday’s contest at Findlay leading the GLIAC with a sizzling 49.3 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. LaPrairie and point guard Meryl Cripe are the team’s only seniors.

Neither is played at disproportionate usage rates compared to the rest of the team, but their combined leadership is proving to be invaluable.

“The role some of the more experienced players have assumed on this team have had a tangible impact on how our team has played,” Burgess said. “I’m not sure what this team’s fullest potential is, yet, but I know that leadership up top will have to continue if we’re going to reach it.”

After starting the season 7-0, the Lakers have dropped their last three games. The first two were against ranked opponents, No. 2 Lewis (Dec. 21) and No. 11 Wayne State University on Friday, with the most recent loss coming at Findlay on Sunday. All three games were played on the road.

Despite the tough stretch, GVSU still seems to have found a formula for success that should bode well for the rest of its GLIAC schedule.

“We’re anxious to push these young ladies every day to get better,” Burgess said.