When the Ithaca College women’s basketball team beat the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers on Jan. 28, it did so with just nine active players and seven unable to suit up. The day before, the Bombers had defeated William Smith College with just 10 players.
Since then, the roster has started to get back to full health, now having just four players on the sideline. The Bombers have had a steady record of 21–2 and a good standing at this point in their season with a winning streak of 15 games. Junior guard Graycen Dubin said the Bombers have a strong team morale and knew they had to stick together and be supportive of one another.
“The hardest part is practice,” Dubin said. “As the numbers started to dwindle at practice when we were at our lowest, it really showed because the energy was really low; there were not as many bodies to bring all of the energy we usually have.”
However, the depleted roster meant many players got the opportunity to have more time on the court, show their improvement and gain support from fellow teammates. Dubin has had a recent increase in minutes during the game — she averaged 8.5 minutes per game in the first eight games, but that has increased to 12.7 minutes over the past nine.
“Having more minutes has brought me into more of that leadership role,” Dubin said. “I can show that I am actually paying attention to things that [head coach Dan Raymond] is saying — the little things — that people are struggling to fix.”
There were many players that were able to have several chances to play and shine on the court while bringing strength to the game against RPI, Dubin being one of them, along with sophomore guards Isabella Mittelman and Shae Sabino.
“When the players who got hurt were out, they ended up being the supporters of the players who needed to step in,” Raymond said. “It helps the players who are typically getting all the minutes to understand the perspective of the other players.”
Raymond said that having more than half of the team injured is not something any coach wants, but the Bombers have become optimistic through this challenge. He also explained how the team dynamic has been great regardless, and that all of the players are there for one another.
“Supportive is simply the best word to describe how they have been, you know?” Raymond said. “It has been amazingly good. Everyone just knew their role had to be different than it was the day before. For people to truly understand what this team went through in that time period, it is just hard to describe it.”
However, there are certain aspects that go into deciding if a player should play or not and if their abilities are at the best and safest they can be. Courtney Gray, the athletic trainer for the women’s basketball team, said plenty of thought goes into deciding who is able to play in that game.
“When we are making a decision about who should play in a game and who shouldn’t, we kind of are looking at what is the risk, where have they been during practice this week and if they have been able to progress in playing at that level,” Gray said.
Gray explained how there had been times when a player was not at 100%, but they could be easily supported by a brace or taping and potentially play in the next game.
“I will help make the decision on how we are treating this,” Gray said. “We will put them through rehabilitation to build them back up for practices, then I will make recommendations on if they should practice or not and I will discuss this with the coaches.”
After the experience of having just four bench players for a game, Dubin said the active players have been taking care of themselves more than before, spending more time in the athletic training room and making sure they can give the upcoming game their full potential. At that point, they did not know if they would be in the game for five minutes, a quarter or even the whole game, so they knew they had to be ready.
“I think we are all doing more for ourselves with the limited numbers. We are making sure we are all at 100% or close to that so that we can perform at our best,” Dubin said. “Before this, I feel like we saw this as less of a priority because you thought you would only play for a certain amount of minutes.”
Throughout the stretch, Raymond said the Bombers have kept a positive attitude and showed how much perseverance each and every player has in them.
“Can’t say enough good things about how we just kept pushing through this,” Raymond said.