GVSU relies on defense in preparation of season

GVL / Robert Mathews / Shooting Guard Lauren Stodola (32) calling out a play for her opponents.

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews / Shooting Guard Lauren Stodola (32) calling out a play for her opponents.

Jay Bushen

The Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team is getting defensive.

Head coach Janel Burgess said that last season, despite a 7-12 conference record, was important because the team established an identity as a defensively-sound unit.

“Our experience from last year helped us build a foundation built on defense, and that’s going to take us far,” she said. “We’re much further ahead than where we were last year. The veterans deserve credit.”

Senior captain Lauren Stodola, who missed 18 games last year due to injury, doesn’t expect the team to give up any easy baskets.

“Since the beginning of last season, we have grown so much in our ability to play together defensively,” Stodola said. “We’ve worked on staying positive while holding each other accountable.

While the team lost a large part of its roster to injury, the team still built up its team chemistry; something the team will lean on this season.

“Chemistry is the thing,” said junior guard Dani Crandall. “Together, as a unit, we’re learned to understand that we can do anything when we rely on each other for consistent positive energy…and our offense is fueled by our defense.”

With weapons on offense, the Lakers hope that defensive effort will lead to fast break opportunities and easy points.

“Tempo will be big for us, especially in transition,” Burgess said. “We’re playing very unselfish
basketball right now.”

Having a presence in the paint will be a key for the Lakers. Senior center Alex Stelfox, GVSU’s fifth all-time leading shot blocker, should cause problems for opposing offenses.

“We’re excited to have a strong post presence,” Crandall said. “Defensively, our bigs are mobile…mobile enough to cover guards. Having that presence in the paint will be huge.”

Sophomore center Daina Grazulis, along with fellow sophomore Emily England, who will be called upon to be a presence in the paint and add some scoring and defense.

“I expect us to present a lot of physicality in the low-post,” Burgess said. “Alex, Diana, and Emily (England) are really starting to establish themselves.”

The offensive balance should give opposing defenses fits this season. In addition to defending the low-post, opposing teams will also have to deal with stopping All-GLIAC First Teamer Briauna Taylor, who led the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals last season.

Having the ball in Taylor’s hands will open up opportunities for other, specifically around the 3-point line.
“We spent a lot of time this summer shooting the three ball,” Burgess said. “Shooting is a continuous focus. If it’s open, we’ve got to nail it.”

With No. 1 Ashland University and No. 24 Ferris State University in the GLIAC, Burgess expects a lot of parody in the North Division. Although the Lakers are still a work in progress, the hope is that they’ll eventually be running and gunning.

“We’ve still got a lot of things to work on,” Stodola said. “But the cohesiveness is huge. We came into the season with an emphasis on being on the same page.”

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