Rebounding key to women’s basketball success

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter
Junior Jasmine Padin scans the court for an open teammate during a game earlier this year

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter Junior Jasmine Padin scans the court for an open teammate during a game earlier this year

Derek Wolff

The Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team is off to a strong start, posting an 11-2 mark in its first 13 games of the 2010-2011 season.

In GVSU head coach Janel Burgess’ fourth season at the helm of the program, this margin marks the second time that the Lakers have won 11 of their first 13 games. The team has been superb on the boards and has out-rebounded teams by an average of almost 10 per game.

“With rebounding, we’ve had a good sense of, ‘Okay, the shot’s up. It’s made or missed, and we still need to pursue the ball,’” Burgess said.

Senior guard Elizabeth Van Tiflin leads the team with 8.1 rebounds per game while sophomore guard Briauna Taylor has pulled down an average of 6.8 per game. Van Tiflin has been a two-way threat on the glass with 35 offensive and 70 defensive rebounds.

“On the defensive end when I see that shot go up, it’s my responsibility to box that person out and finish the defensive possession,” Van Tiflin said. “On offense, I have a nose for the ball and when the shot goes up, I’m determined that’s my ball, and I have to go after it and get it.”

The Lakers have outscored opponents by more than 16 points per game, averaging 73.7 points per game while holding opponents to just 57.4.

Sophomore center Alex Stelfox has come off a strong freshman year when she was named the GLIAC Freshman of the Year after averaging 12 points per game. This season she has bumped up her average to a team-leading 15 points per game at the season’s halfway point.

“My goal was to improve each year, so by averaging 15 (points per game), I’m improving,” Stelfox said. “It’s a team effort though. They trust me and have a lot of confidence in me to give me the ball in the post.”

Stelfox added both effort of her teammates and work with assistant coach Abby Wiseman on changing the style of play has been critical in her success to this point.

“Coach Wiseman had been helping me a lot by changing the kind of player I was last year when I was more of a finesse player into being a more physical player this year, too,” she said.

Burgess stressed the versatile and cohesive nature of this year’s team both on and off the court for their success.

“Offensively we’ve moved the ball very freely. We’ve got a great inside-outside presence with some good solid guards and some good inside presence,” Burgess said. “We’ve got a good balance, and I think the kids have realized that together, they can do a lot of special things.”

Optimism among the players remains high for the second half of the season, which will feature crucial match-ups against conference rivals Hillsdale College, Michigan Technological University and Lake Superior State University.

For Burgess, however, the next game is always the most meaningful.

“Every game has to have the same meaning,” she said. “The next game on our schedule is the most important since that’s going to dictate if we’re getting better and if we’re reaching our immediate goals, which are growth and cohesiveness from the beginning to the end of the season, realizing we have a long eight weeks ahead of us.”

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