Huskies need spark from youth

By Eddie Garcia

The women’s basketball team headed into the 2017-18 season with a focus on its roster depth.

Head Coach Lisa Carlsen said before the start of the season the acquisitions of freshman guard Gabby Nikitinaite, freshman guard Errin Hodges and the return of a majority of their offense would give them a much-needed deeper roster, something they were missing during their postseason run last year.

However, the last thing the team expected was to lose two of its key players — sophomore guards Janae Poisson and Myia Starks. The guard tandem promptly saw an end to its season because of torn ACL injuries, which completely changed the tone of the Huskies’ season.

“We really thought at the beginning of the year that one of our biggest assets was going to be our depth and didn’t ever think that we would be in this situation, especially in the back court,” Carlsen said.

Poisson, who went down Nov. 18 against Western Illinois, was a huge loss for the Huskies’ bench, as she averaged 8.4 points and shot .427 percent from the field, including .353 on 3-pointers during the 2016-17 season.

The Huskies dealt with her absence pretty well as they were able to rally around her injury, going 8-3 overall in her absence and remaining a dominant threat in the MAC West Division.

That was until the Jan. 6 bittersweet win over Buffalo where the Huskies dealt with another blow, as their starting point guard Myia Starks was helped off of the court and was later confirmed to have a torn ACL as well.

Starks averaged nearly nine points, five rebounds and five assists per game. The Huskies have been impacted by her loss as they have gone 0-3 in her absence.

“I think injuries in basketball are something that does happen a lot seeing that it is a contact sport and is very fast pace,” said junior forward Courtney Woods. “To have two season-ending injuries in key players is very rare, so that is definitely something that we weren’t necessarily expecting.”

Woods said the injuries may have slightly affected the team, but not its will to win, as they have come to terms with it and realized other players will have to step up in their absence, especially herself.

This is where roster depth plays a huge role in the team’s future success, as the team will now have to rely on younger players carrying a majority of the offensive load.

Players must deal with being put into roles they may not be used, such as Nikitinaite, who is a guard forced to play the forward position, a role she has never played before.

“Gabby is definitely going to play a lot more minutes than she was expected to this year, and so coming into that position, [Carlsen] has definitely talked to her a lot more about being open to new things,” Woods said. “She now has had to play the four position, which she has never played before, so [Carlsen] has been saying we all have to be more prepared to do things we’re not used to on both defense and offense.”

The Huskies need to remain positive and keep moving forward with their younger players if they want any shot at another MAC championship appearance.

“[Injuries] can bring morale down, or it can make you rally around adversity,” Carlsen said. “I really think that would be more of the approach that this team is taking. They feel bad for their teammates that do not have the opportunity to put on a uniform anymore, but they are also not about to let that be an excuse.”