Women's Basketball Hopes To Rebound From Injuries
Athletics - posted on 11/14/2005
This year, like last year, the key word for the Lakeland's women's basketball team might be injuries. But there is one major difference - this year's squad will be looking to heal last year's injuries, and avoid new ones.
Four of this season's five projected starters - guards Kristi Thill and Connie Thousand and forwards Jenna Boehm and Beth Porter - are coming off ACL injuries.
Last season, the Muskies fought through the losses on their way to a second-place finish in the Lake Michigan Conference, including a near-upset of conference champion Edgewood in the LMC Tournament championship.
Certainly, the nightmare of last season's injuries is a scenario this year's team would like to avoid, and the Muskies can get back to what they do best - winning.
Lakeland has won seven of the last 10 LMC regular season titles, five of the last 10 LMC Tournament titles and made four NCAA Tournament appearances since 1999.
"We actually gain most of our offensive production not through our recruiting class, but through the players that are coming back from ACL injuries," said April Arvan, who is entering her 12th season as head coach.
Thill, a senior who took a medical hardship last season to gain another year of eligibility, and Thousand have the ability to carry a large load of offense from the guard position.
Thill (Garden, Mich./Big Bay de Noc HS) will resume point guard duties for the Muskies, a position she has started at since her freshman year. Thill is in Lakeland's top 10 in both career steals and assists, and can put herself on the list for points this season.
"We really need Kristi to be healthy," Arvan says. "Her leadership and her presence on the court is uplifting to all of us."
Thousand (Barneveld/Barneveld HS), a redshirt sophomore transfer from Edgewood and younger sister of former women's basketball player Casey Thousand and current assistant baseball coach Chris Thousand, is one of the taller players on the team at 5-foot-11, but has the advantage of being skilled both outside and inside the paint, making her one of Lakeland's most dangerous options on offense.
Boehm and Porter will shoulder the majority of the load in the post, and have the difficult task of replacing Renee Steinert, Lakeland's sixth all-time leading scorer for women's hoops.
Porter, a 6-2 senior from St. Charles, Ill., played through her injury at the end of last year and provided valuable minutes. She came off the bench in the tournament championship game to hit five of six shots from the field and finished with 12 points.
Boehm (Green Bay/Green Bay Preble HS) was a first-year starter two years ago, so she is not unfamiliar with the role she will have this year. The difficult part will be adapting to any restrictions she will face with her knee.
"It's nice because they're experienced," Arvan said, "but it's going to be a challenge as well because they are coming off of the injuries."
They will find help in senior Nikki Boeckh (Johnsburg, Ill./Johnsburg HS) and junior Danielle Duranceau (Waukesha/Waukesha West HS), who are expected to be major contributors at the forward position off the bench.
Duranceau started eight games last season, while Boeckh appeared in 14 games in the 2004-05 year. However, the team will be without Boeckh until the volleyball season is over.
"Depending upon how quickly (Boeckh) can get used to basketball stuff is how quickly she'll have success," Arvan says. "Her performance will be based on her offseason and what she did in the summertime.
"She's athletic, and given the opportunity last year she did very well. We're hoping that she can relieve us from the loss of Steiny a little bit."
The fifth starting spot seems to be up for grabs heading into the season. Sophomore Brenda Paulson (Clayton/Clayton HS) may be the leading candidate because of the job she did her freshman year when she finished second on the team in steals (29) and third in rebounds (127).
Other players who will see plenty of playing time this year will be seniors (and twin sisters) Kari and Kristi Panske (Wallace, Mich./Stephenson HS), junior Amanda Thielmann (Elkhart Lake/Elkhart Lake HS) and sophomore Allison Komaromy (Algonquin, Ill./Dundee Crown HS).
"Kristi Panske and Kari Panske provide us with leadership because they both know what's expected out of our program," Arvan says. "They're both good role models for our freshmen and our returnees because they do care and they put a lot of energy into this program. That's very valuable to our team."
Arvan is also looking for a few freshman to step in to provide minutes for the team, most notably Derin Aras (Eskisehir, Turkey).
"We're not quite sure where to put her in with our system," says Arvan of Aras. "It's just that she's so athletic, it's hard not to have her on the court."
Arvan also expects Sasha Falish (DePere/Wrightstown HS) and Kasey Gussert (Kingsford, Mich./Kingsford HS) to also see time this season.
On the schedule this year, the Muskies have three regular season tournaments lined up, including their own Play With Grace Tip-Off Tournament, which opens the season on Nov. 18, and a trip to Texas for the South Padre Island Shootout over Lakeland's Winter Break.
The Muskies also see two future conference opponents in Rockford and Benedictine this season.
Lakeland draws a little bit of luck heading down the stretch at the end of the season, where they will be hosting six of their last nine conference games.
"We expect to win every game we play," Arvan says. "We expect to compete; that's just the nature of the philosophy of our program. We have high expectations that we put on ourselves and we take it game-by-game and see what happens."
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