STORY BY MICHAEL WENDLANDT
For much of the season, the focus of the media on Drake Women’s Basketball has been on sophomores Lizzy Wendell and Caitlin Ingle, as well as top freshmen Maddy Dean and Becca Jonas. This focus makes sense, as all four are having breakout seasons.
However, many players are flying under the radar, even though they are just as impactful in games.
“It’s weird that we’re all seniors now,” Liza Heap said. “We have something special and we’ve been through a lot and we’re excited to be a part of Drake history.”
There are four seniors that are currently suiting up and one that is injured. There is no official word on whether or not Kyndal Clark will be back next season, but she isn’t being treated like a senior by the coaching staff.
“We all love this team so much,” Clark said. “We’d do anything for each other.”
The other four seniors, Carly Grenfell, Heap, Cara Lutes, and Bryanna Mueller, have each made impacts on and off the court. The coaching staff has been ecstatic with how much they have helped form the glue that got the Bulldogs to the top of the Missouri Valley Conference and stay there.
“They have an incredible spirit. They take the ‘Bulldog Way’ and completely buy into it,” Coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “They’ve left a legacy and have shown the younger players how to be leaders.”
Each senior leads in varied ways and impacts the game differently.
Heap is a senior forward who has started every game for two years. She hasn’t been the top scorer or the leader of the offense, but she has been an asset on the defensive end.
“She’s the glue,” Baranczyk said. “When you need a big rebound or a big stop, she’s going to be the one we turn to. She does all the things that you don’t see on the stat sheet, but her value is priceless.”
“She’s our best vocal leader,” Clark said. “She communicates better on the court than all of us.”
Grenfell is the top backup, the ‘sixth-man’ in basketball lingo, and has sparked the team early in several games this season on both ends of the floor. A redshirted senior, Grenfell has been a Bulldog through thick and thin and has come out with the energy that can turn games around. Getting hot from beyond the arc as of late, her value has been noted throughout the season.
“She brings that energy that changed the momentum of every game she enters,” Baranczyk said. “Her heart, whether it is running the full court defense or running the baseline, has lifted this team up.”
Lutes has taken some time to get going, but she has gotten her chance this season and has run with it, providing big minutes off the bench and shining during some crucial plays during crunch time.
Mueller doesn’t play much, averaging only three minutes in eight games this season, but her value has been on the bench as the heart and soul of the team. She can be seen during every game getting the bench hyped up and focusing her efforts on keeping the team going.
“Her attitude is infectious,” Clark said. “She sees the game with a different lens since she plans to coach and she has been vital in getting us ready for each and every game.”
As the season winds to a close, and with it the careers of at least four of the seniors, there are memories that will be formed, records that will fall and potentially 10 more games to see them play together.