CSU women find propellant by way of the bench

Luke Zahlmann

A rollercoaster season at the start, Colorado State women’s basketball’s bench players off the pine have corrected their issues and helped lead the way to a successful conference schedule to date.

A team that has double-digit players seeing the court for an average of 10 minutes or more a game along with 10 of the 11 having started a game, coach Ryun Williams has created an atmosphere of acceptance of differing roles and support for each player that sees the floor. The constant fluctuation of lineups has kept each player in a starter’s mindset, even when their name is not called in introductions.

Ad

Edwards dribbles in orange jersey
Redshirt freshman guard Jordyn Edwards moves the ball up the court during the second quarter of play against the Colorado Buffaloes on Dec. 6. The Rams fell in a hard fought battle 70-67 in Moby Arena. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

With only one player that averages over 10 in scoring and only two with over 30 minutes a game, the Rams have forged a new path in their latest season. A season after they lost two of the greatest players in Rams history in Elin Gustavsson and Ellen Nystrom, the team has relied on each player to embrace their role, ever-changing as it may be.

“We’re gonna do what’s in the best interest of our basketball team,” Williams said. “It does go game by game and some games fit kids more than other games, that’s just how we do it. (Whatever is) gonna give our team the best chance to win the game.”

Fortunately for the team, the quality of selflessness is engrained in each player from the beginning. Whether it be ignoring accolades, or defensive focus and leadership, the Rams have recruited each factor and harnessed them within their team, creating a collaboration of team-friendly mindsets.

Stability from each player has reigned supreme after the Rams got off to a .500 start in their first four games. The team saw the highs and lows of a typical season with an upset win over Gonzaga, followed by a lopsided loss to Oklahoma only one game later. Maturity has reared its head as the season has drawn on, proving as an asset for the team.

Success has been the mantra for each season under Williams tenor, and a meddling spot early on in the standings failed to derail the team. The Rams came through with flying colors under the tutelage of Williams due to their bench bringing life to the offense.

“We’re so supportive of each other that it doesn’t matter who’s playing on the court,” Annie Brady said. “As long as we’re getting work done, we just know that we’re supported by each other.”

Players like senior Sofie Tryggedsson, junior Brady and freshman Lore Devos have each held their stint in the starting lineup throughout the year. An adjustment from Williams has given the team a new direction, having the three-headed monster move to the bench, providing an incremental boost. The mixture of youth and leadership off the bench has only aided the Rams efforts.

“It’s tough, (but) I know me and my teammates are always ready for our number to be called,” Jordyn Edwards said. “I personally try to stay engaged and picture myself out there and keep a positive attitude off the bench. When I am on the bench I’m cheering for my teammates.”

Along with the mindset, the Rams have also built a roster to compete in many different game scripts. Players like Tryggedsson and Devos provide scoring with the former being second on the team in 3-pointers made; Brady and Liah Davis provide size and grit, both registering double-double pace numbers and Callie Kaiser and Edwards provide energy and a prowess on both ends of the court.

An added benefit to the skill of the bench is inner squad competition, an exemplary facet of a title contender.

Ad

Pushing in practice and bettering those around them has pushed the Rams ceiling higher as the season has progressed.

The adjustments pre-game and mid-game have given the Rams a leg up each game and provided a much-needed spark in the lulls they have endured. The defense of the Rams, one of the top in the nation in limiting opposing field goal percentage, has kept their schemes consistent regardless of the players on the court.

Commonly seen in a zone defense, the Rams have utilized their flexibility to record nearly 200 steals as a team in the year, leading to transition scoring. The combination of offense and defense has all been further strengthened by the progress of players that have seen the bench and challenged themselves to embrace the role instead of folding.

All of the aspects the Rams have possessed off the bench have been a catalyst to their success in a new era of women’s basketball and will bode well when the post season comes around.

Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.