Each of the past two seasons for the Gustavus Women’s basketball team have revolved around a pair of studly seniors, with two All-Conference players graduating each year. This year there are no seniors on the roster, but this apparent dearth of upperclassmen leadership isn’t a concern for Head Coach Laurie Kelly.
“For us, we have a good veteran group back with a large group of juniors, and then we’re going to have some underclassmen contribute for us,” Kelly said. “We’ve lost four players in the past two years who were record setters for Gustavus women’s basketball. You don’t necessarily replace what Kendall [Thompson] and Justine [Lee] did and Miranda [Rice] and Mikayla [Miller] before them, but our players now get an opportunity to have a different role and take advantage of it.”
And take advantage they have. The Gusties are off to a hot start this season, demolishing both of their first two non-conference opponents.
On Saturday, Gustavus hosted the Luther Norse on Gus Young court.
The first quarter saw the Gusties off to a slow start, not to be unexpected in this first game of the season. An efficient seven points from First-year Caitlin Rorman helped the Black and Gold to a 15-10 lead after the first quarter.
The Gusties got warmed up in the second quarter and ratcheted up the pressure on defense. Gustavus scored 18 of the first 19 points and forced seven Luther turnovers, which yielded a comfortable 40-18 halftime lead. Shooting percentages were low for both teams, with Gustavus going 13-35 from the field and 2-8 from behind the arc, and Luther shooting a dismal 7 for 30 from the field and 2 of 15 from three-point land.
The Norse put up stout opposition to begin the third quarter and outscored the Gusties 23-17 in the third frame, putting themselves in striking distance for the fourth quarter.
After trading blows early in the fourth, Gustavus went on a 10-2 run with 8:45 remaining, pushing the lead to 73-49 with 4:13 to play. Strong play the rest of the way from the reserves clinched the convincing 84-53 win for the Gusties.
“It was a great first game for us,” Kelly said. “We came out of the gates strong in the first half and were able to score consistently and play solid defensively. We were able to play 11-deep and put a handful of different lineups together. One of the highlights for us was the play of our first-years, who contributed in a big way.”
Rorman was impressive throughout her college debut, collecting 15 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Junior Ava Gonsorowski also filled up the stat sheet and handled the rock at point guard, notching eight points, eight rebounds, and four assists. First-year Anna Sanders added 10 points on three of five shooting, while First-year Maddy Rice and Junior sharpshooter Marisa Gustafson added nine each.
Commenting on the team’s strong performance, Gustafson said, “We prepared well and came with a lot of energy. We handled their pressure well and never let them get ahead.”
On Tuesday, the Gusties headed to New Ulm to face the Knights of Martin Luther.
Gustavus started off hot, jumping out to an 8-0 lead, but the Knights rallied and closed the gap to 10-7. After a prescient timeout from Coach Kelly, Gustavus scored ten straight to close out the quarter and never looked back.
The second quarter was even more lopsided, as the Gusties went 12-19 from the floor and smothered the Knights on defense to take a 47-11 lead into halftime.
The offensive explosion continued in the second half, and Gustavus coasted to an easy 94-26 victory.
Scoring was remarkably even, with 14 players notching buckets and only two of those breaking double digits. Rorman once again had a strong showing with 14 points on 7 of 8 shooting, while Gustafson had 11 points and splashed in all three attempts she took from deep. The Gusties shot 57% from the field and 32% from the three-point line.
The Gusties have powerful momentum built up as they head into the conference season, which starts when they host Macalester this Saturday at 3 p.m. On the team’s prospects, Gustafson commented, “Looking ahead to the rest of the season, we need to continue to focus and work hard in every practice and game. With the widespread skill and experience we bring to the floor, we have the potential for a very good season.”