As if coming back this year to an all new coaching staff wasn’t enough change to take in, the returning players are also learning to deal with an emptiness caused by something missing.
That hole was once filled by Kim Mestdagh, the Rams’ leading scorer and arguably star player of last season.
“It is really weird not having her around here anymore. I think about her a lot. I wish she would have redshirted sometime so we could have played our last year with the new coaches together,” senior forward Meghan Heimstra said.
That’s the kicker about college athletics, getting the exact same team for more than one season is nearly impossible. Players are constantly coming and going due to graduation and transferring schools.
However, the Rams are persistent on believing that Mestdagh’s absence is merely an obstacle they will be able to work around.
“You can’t rely on just one player to win games. Although I’d love to have her here, we have to learn to move on — it’s the harsh reality of Division-I athletics,” Heimstra said. “Her little sister being here really reminds me that there’s something missing.”
The Mestdagh name in a CSU uniform is carried on by Kim’s sister, Hanne, who is redshirting this year as a sophomore.
“It’s way different. With her gone, I don’t get to speak in my own language anymore,” Hanne Mestdagh, a native of Belgium, said. “I learned a lot from her. Last year was my freshman year and it was always nice to have someone around that close to you because she helped me with everything.”
The Rams are also faced with adjusting to an all new coaching staff that they haven’t worked with before this season. The coaching staff never got the opportunity to work with Kim Mestdagh, so they are starting to build their team without her in mind.
“Do I think it feels empty without her here? No. This is our group, we’ve had some pretty good practices up to this point. Onward,” CSU coach Ryun Williams said.
The plan to go on without Mestdagh isn’t to replace her with one single player, but instead the entire team.
“I think the way we have to replace Kim is collectively because we don’t have another Kim, she’s gone,” Williams said. “We do have a group that has some strengths and we have to play through each kid’s strengths and do it together.”
It’s a plan that the entire team has good feelings about.
“We’re going to have to do it as a group. If every player contributes a little more we’ll be fine,” Hanne Mestdagh said.
Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.