Eamonn McCullough – Staff Writer
The Gustavus Women’s basketball team ignited the court on Saturday, February 6, topping conference rival Augsburg 92-74 to open the season on the road. The Gusties played a strong offensive game from the beginning, and although Augsburg led by a small margin for much of the first quarter, Seniors Paige Richert and Marisa Gustafson kept the visitor side of the scoreboard well lit.
“We executed on offense really well. We scored a lot of points, which helped us where we were lacking on defense. For our first game in a year, we pushed the pace and shared the ball really well,” Senior Guard Ava Gonsorowski said.
Gustavus was a force to be reckoned with throughout the second quarter, putting up 26 points throughout the frame. The Gustie defense, highlighted by Sophomore Anna Sanders’ team-leading 7 rebounds, held a strong line throughout the first half as well, despite Saturday being the first time the team has had the chance to defend against outside competition all year.
“Collectively, we did a really good job of staying together. For our first game in almost a year, it helped that all of us were there supporting each other and being positive,” Sanders said. “We were a little lacking on the defensive end, trying to keep people in front. We haven’t played anyone but ourselves since Saturday, and that change of pace was really hard to adjust to,” Gonsorowski said.
Despite these minor challenges, Gustavus finished out the beginning of the game in the lead, 46-36. The Gusties plowed through the third quarter in a blaze of offensive fury, led by Sophomore Caitlin Rorman. The 2019-20 Rookie of the Year was responsible for 11 of the 22 Gustavus points scored in the quarter, and the Gusties led 68-56 going into the twilight of the game.
“I felt like we played well together. I mean, there were mistakes made just from not actually playing a game for that long, but I felt like we were still able to play as a team just from getting to do so much scrimaging the first few weeks we were back. We were able to put that team chemistry together well,” Rorman said.
Although the beginning of the fourth quarter was marked by back-and-forth scoring drives, the Gusties were able to clinch their victory in the end, outscoring the Auggies 92-74.
“It was good that we got a win. It’s always good to win on the road in the MIAC, especially since this was our first game in over 345 days. It was good to get the win we’ve been working for since October of this year. It was also good to see some of the younger kids play, and to have some of our veterans show them the way,” Gonsorowski said.
Coming off such a decisive victory, the Gusties were looking forward to another week of stiff competition until their next game, a home non-conference matchup with Bethel scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 10, was postponed due to COVID-19 regulations. Although Gustavus officials are still looking for a date to move that event to, the Gustie women have another exciting conference away game scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 13 against the University of St. Thomas.
Sudden changes in plans are nothing new to COVID-era Gustie student athletes, however, and dealing with uncertainty has been one of the biggest adjustments for most teams competing this season.
“Adjusting to day-to-day life [has been a challenge]. Every practice and game isn’t given.
Like, this week we had a false positive test but our game for Wednesday (Feb. 10) was postponed anyway. Adjusting to the uncertainty has really been one of our strengths this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what this team can do the rest of the season with what we have. We’re gonna play hard and take everything that we can get. We got a really special group of girls this year,” Gonsorowski said.
Despite sudden changes to the competition schedule, the daily thrill of practice and the opportunity to improve still remains.
“Getting to play games is kinda like the cherry on top, it kinda seems like this season. We’ve talked this spring about how every time we see each other could really be the last for two weeks or the rest of the year,” Sanders said.
“Under the circumstances, we really don’t know what could come. I think [I’m looking forward to] just being able to enjoy the time we can as a team, especially knowing we have so many seniors, and just being able to spend as much time on the court with them as we can,” Rorman said.