By Kevin Lopez
Grand Rapids Community College’s women’s basketball team had a roller coaster season last year with a lot of ups and downs, but this season they are hoping for a season full of ups as they have seven returning players and add three new players to the fold as they look to go farther this year.
After starting last season 1-5, the Raiders were able to turn it around and end the season with a solid record of 20-11. In the Great Lakes A Tournament, they were able to make it past the Glen Oaks Vikings in a close battle, and then blew out the Jackson College Jets, a team they were 0 – 2 against in the regular season. Finally came the last challenge, Muskegon Community College. The Raiders scratched and clawed, but were not able to overcome the Jayhawks and lost 70 – 50 and thus did not qualify for the National Division II Tournament.
The GRCC women’s basketball team season begins on Monday, Nov. 7 at Aquinas College, while the first home game of the season will be on Thursday, Nov. 10 vs. Lansing Community.
GRCC’s women’s basketball head coach David Glazier who is returning for his seventh season, says time will tell how the season will unfold for the Raiders.
“That could go either way,” he said with a chuckle. “I think recognition that we are a year older, a year wiser, could help us a lot, but it could also make us complacent. I don’t think that will happen with this group, they’ve been working hard, and practices have been great.”
Glazier stressed that his team needs to stay focused with the move to a new conference.
With this year’s placement in the newly formed MCCAA North, Glazier said his team will have more of a target on our back, along with different competition and a different division.
He explained, “It’s going to be a learning experience for all of us. We aren’t the only team moving conferences and we still have familiar faces, but still some teams have new coaches, new systems, and new teams, so it’s ultimately going to be on our kids being prepped, understanding roles, and being ready for the travel.”
Sally Merrill, the returning sophomore guard/forward who led the team in scoring, and was also named to the All-MCCAA, All-Region, First Team All-Conference, and the All-Freshman team last year, reflected on how last season ended with their defeat to the Jayhawks.
“The end of the season was bittersweet because we beat Jackson College, who had beaten us twice before and that was a great high we had before we faced Muskegon and then to lose in the way we did was super upsetting,” Merrill said, before expressing optimism about this season. “I was pretty confident about our team last year. We started five freshmen, the majority of the team was freshmen, and most of the whole team was led and carried by freshmen and now that we have that year of experience we’re just gonna be able to build off that chemistry and take off.”
Merrill originally was transferring to a school in Florida, but changed her mind to return to GRCC this year.
“Nothing went bad, I fell in love with the school when I visited, but the personal end of my social setting and my family, I realized that I wanted to stay closer to home.”
Avery Jirous, an incoming freshman guard from Wyoming, explained the process of coming to GRCC and joining the team.
“It was really easy, the team was very open and welcomed me with open arms,” Jirous said. “They helped me whenever I needed it and were available whenever I needed them.”
Although she is new, she said she understands her role on the team.
“With the way the team talked about last year, we expect to go further this year,” she said confidently. “Me being one of the new players on the team, I bring a new light this year, I think I have really good energy and I get along with everyone, so I hope I can help bring the team together.”
When asked about her expectations for the upcoming season, Merrill said she feels that the team will improve internally this year.
“Everyone has been working their butt off in practice, and there’s more opportunity for people to do better this year,” Merrill said. “I’m hoping to improve the record. Obviously it’s hard to keep losses in the single digits, being under 10 losses is a much better look, 20-11 is a good record, but I think we can do so much better.”