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Zahlmann: This year was Ryun Williams’ best masterpiece yet

LAS VEGAS – The season began with several question marks for Colorado State women’s basketball as they lost their two best players and leaders in Ellen Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson to graduation and faced a talent-laden conference schedule, loaded with older squads.

Hannah Tvrdy (10) sits in the post game press conference following the Rams defeat against Boise State on March 7. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

Ryun Williams and his band of misfits led by senior Hannah Tvrdy answered every question and more with one of Williams’ best coaching performances yet. A program seeking direction before his arrival has now found their coach for the foreseeable future, and Joe Parker would be wise to make sure he spends his coaching career in the confines of Fort Collins.

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Already the winningest coach in program history, Williams has yet to fail at the helm of the program and has carried the CSU women’s program to heights seldom reached in the school’s history.

On top of a sterling winning percentage, Williams finds a way into the hearts of each player he coaches. Warm sediments have come in abundance from current and past players, as well as the fans that have developed personal relationships with him.

“I want to thank (Ryun) for believing in me even though I was injured and didn’t play,” senior Stine Austgulen said. “He’s given (to) all of our players, (developed) players, always (had) a good game plan and (was) ready for us to go.”

“The way he believed in me, it’s on and off the court,” Tvrdy said. “He developed us as people and coming in as a redshirt, kind of showed me my first year and then these past two years (he just) believed in me and giving me this opportunity, I just want to thank him for that.”

In back-to-back seasons, the Rams have fallen short of their goal of a postseason conference title, with both loses coming at the hands of Boise State. A loss is the same in every box score, but the two losses both gave way to an admiration from players moving on, and an emotional goodbye from each graduating class, passing sediments of gratitude to Williams.

The Rams once again came head-to-head with a program on the rise and the strength of the Broncos only further shows the masterful job that Williams achieved this season, coming within double-digits in two of the team’s three meetings, despite losing the heart of his squad sans Tvrdy.

An offense that struggled from the first game, Williams was forced to constantly adjust and adapt, searching for a way to get a spark. After months of attempting, the Rams fell short in the department as their offense was unable to pick up for a defense that allowed nearly 15 percentage points higher than the team’s top-five mark in the nation.

Defense being his specialty, Williams coached a smaller team than those he has usually fielded to one of the most lockdown units in the nation. The size differential each game failed to collapse the Rams as Williams’ constant in-game adjustments proved vital.

With yearly turnover, Williams has failed to waiver and shown time and time again that he is in the upper echelon of leaders in the university’s athletic history.

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Though a trio of seniors in Tvrdy, Austgulen and Veronika Mirkovic will make their way into the next phase of life, Williams will continue to work his magic, creating a dominant product on the court and a lifetime bond with his players off.

For that, the Rams faithful and all those involved with the program should be truly thankful.

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

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