By Claire Weidman
The Grinnell women’s basketball season is off to quick start as the Pioneers have registered two non-conference losses, one Midwest Conference win and one individual MWC record.
Michelle Briggs ’13 posted a new MWC record for most career blocks with eight swats in the team’s 65-52 loss to Benedictine University. She now holds the record with 253 blocks, beating out the previous high of 243 by Marie Mullooly of Beloit College from 1993-97. Head coach Kate Gluckman believes that Briggs really fine-tuned her blocking last season.
“[Briggs] has really become more patient in terms of her shot blocking, knowing that she doesn’t have to reach around, or she doesn’t have to use her body, and she just uses her natural jumping ability and her height and has really become excellent at doing that,” Gluckman said.
With almost an entire season left in her career, Briggs ’13 will likely put the record out of reach for a while. Her teammates are very appreciative of her defensive contribution to the team.
“Our team has been among the top three defensive teams in the MWC for two years in a row now and a major reason we are that good defensively is Michelle and her ability to block shots. When teams play us, we try to make them take forced three point shots, and when they decide to drive into the lane instead, Michelle is there to block or disrupt their shots,” said captain Tolu Alabi ’13.
The team has a new look this year after losing two senior starters and bringing in three first years.
“We graduated two athletes last year, Meg Huey and Ashley Jeannin. They were incredible leaders on the floor, and certainly, their impact was felt on the offensive and defensive floor,” Gluckman said. “We have a lot of young athletes on the perimeter this year and we haven’t quite yet figured that out. But with those young athletes, we have a lot more scoring options.”
Alabi has a very positive view about the differences in the team this year.
“The team is very different from last year offensively. Defensively, we’re still very good, but our offense has improved,” Alabi said. “Our returners have added more offensive weapons to their game and our first years are very talented. Last year, we relied more on our defense to win games, but this year we can rely on our defense and also put a lot of points on the board.”
After starting MWC play with a win against Knox, the team is hopeful for success and has high expectations for their season.
“I feel that as a team, we expect to win. We are determined to go to the conference tournament. We want to do the absolute best that we can this season,” said forward Alex Plemmons ’15.
Making the Midwest Conference tournament has been just out of reach for the women’s team for the past few years. However, Coach Gluckman believes this year will be different.
“It’s going to be a really exciting year,” Gluckman said. “I think that this is the best team that we’ve had at Grinnell for a long time.”
Gluckman’s words ring true after the team’s 78-75 victory over Knox. The Knox Women’s Basketball team is a unique opponent because they play The System, the up-tempo strategy that the Grinnell men’s basketball team uses.
“They played The System for the first time last year, and we were able to get two wins off of them, and that was great, and so that’s our expectation this year, certainly. We know that we have to take care of the basketball, and not let their pressure and chaos impact us,” Gluckman said before Wednesday’s game.
The Pioneers did just that. The women took a close 78-75 victory over Knox to improve to 1-2 in their season so far.
The team continues MWC play at home this Saturday, December 1 at 1 p.m. vs. Ripon College and play at Wartburg College at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 2.