As the CSU women’s basketball team continues to get healthier so too do their chances of winning a fourth consecutive regular season Mountain West title.
After losing freshman guard Jordyn Edwards in early December and junior forward Veronika Mirkovic at the end of the same month the Rams were forced to shorten their lineup heading into conference play. Smaller injuries to guards Stine Austgulen and Sofie Tryggedsson have forced them out of the lineup for limited stretches as well.
Altogether that has caused head coach Ryun Williams to rely on a seven-women rotation for the majority of the team’s conference games.
The Rams, currently riding a nine-game winning streak and sitting atop the Mountain West (18-5, 10-1 Mountain West), have succeeded despite the plethora of injuries. Combined with the leadership from the starting five the Rams have benefited from players stepping into scoring roles at opportune times. In games that the Rams relied solely on seven women players like Amanda Kantzy and Myanne Hamm have been the ones to extend their game to the next level.
“Kids have stepped up,” Williams said. “We’ve had nice performances and I’m proud of how our kids just stay ready.”
But considering the return of those injured players, their best days might still be ahead of them.
Although Edwards will have surgery to repair a fractured tibia in the next week Tryggedsson and Austgulen are both back and healthy. The two shooters provide an added threat from three-point range, an area the Rams have struggled in over the last three games.
Equally as important is the return of Veronika Mirkovic. Though she is still a couple weeks away the return of the early season starter will be a welcome sight for the Rams as they continue their push for a fourth consecutive Mountain West regular season title.
“We hope to get Veronika back a little before the Mountain West tournament,” Williams said. “She is progressing nicely.”
Perhaps the biggest thing Mirkovic has to offer is playing time. In the 12 games she played before the injury Mirkovic averaged more than 22 minutes per game. For a team that has lacked depth for most of its conference schedule, those minutes are crucial.
“If we just grow our depth, and Veronika will really help with that, then our chances are greater,” Williams said.
In the past four games Rams starters have averaged 35 minutes per game. Entering a stretch of the season that puts their physical endurance to the test, a return to health could not come soon enough for the Mountain West leaders.
“The healthier we get, we’re able to play a few more numbers,” Williams said. “Hopefully we can play a little fresher down the stretch. It’s always nice to be somewhat fresh going into the tournament with three games in four days.”
As players return from injury and get comfortable with their roles, that added rest may prove to be the difference maker in the Mountain West.
Collegian sports reporter Colin Barnard can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_