The phrase “hardhat-lunch pail” defines two characteristics that the 2014-2015 CCSJ Women’s basketball team clearly embodied. The Crimson Wave Women’s Basketball team, despite being met with huge complications early on, and often being out-sized and outnumbered, resolved to push forward in the same way that any champion does: chin up and chest out, working toward a goal that didn’t seem so distant, at least not to them.
Senior guard Gia Ezell recounts an event that shook the team early in the season:
“We showed up to one of Coach Schmidt’s practices and everything seemed pretty normal. We went through our regular drills, finished up with practice, and Coach Schmidt made the announcement.”
Right before the start of the regular season, the team’s head coach, Christina Schmidt, announced to her team that she would be leaving them. Her resignation shocked the girls.
“We had a few clues as to what was going on with Coach Schmidt, but we were still shocked all the same when she made the announcement to the team. She had been distant to us in a way that we knew something was up. She hadn’t been texting me back, hadn’t alluded to any potential recruits for the following year, hadn’t really been present in the same way,” recounted senior guard Alyssa White.
So, what were they left to do, with no coach and no one to direct their efforts? Gia Ezell recalled this on the split, “We knew we had to maintain some sort of routine if we wanted to be successful this year. We decided as a group as to what times we would meet to get in the gym and try to continue our business. Coach Sexson (the men’s team’s Coach) really helped by stepping in for a short amount of time to help us run through drills and we’re really thankful for that, but it was the team that made the decision not to let something like this tear us apart. To be honest, it really brought us together as a bunch. It had already been hard, competing for gym time with the other CCSJ athletics teams, but it got even harder when coach Schmidt left us. The fact that the team was still able to stay in communication with one another and make it into the crowded gym schedule really says something about the bond that we formed with each other.”
Sophomore Dariyan Morris, who led the team in scoring and steals and received All-Conference Honorable Mention, decided to suck it up for the seniors: “You know, I knew the things that I had to do to be a successful player, and I really enjoyed my relationship with the girls on the team and I looked up to the seniors. We had six seniors this year and I knew that I needed to show them my respect by giving my all for them, both in practice and with my game play. I didn’t want them to feel like they were alone in their last season of college basketball.”
They also had to adapt to new head coach John Maniatis, who respected them as a group largely composed of seniors. Alyssa White remembers an instance in which the team questioned the motives of their new head coach, “Coach Maniatis was a bit passive this year, but we knew that it was out of respect for us, as seniors. One day after practice we had a team meeting and some of the girls asked him why he was so passive. He told us that he was not going to impose on our final year of basketball. He knew that four of our starting five were seniors, and that he wouldn’t be able to change our game in less than half of a season, so he decided to put his cards down and let us play our own hand.”
While the Crimson Wave Women’s Basketball team finished the season below .500, they did not fall short of their goal of making it to the playoffs. With a late-season victory over Roosevelt, and a loss suffered by another tournament candidate, serendipity lead to a wild card draw enabling the team to qualify for the CCAC conference tournament. Although the team would eventually fall to IU-South Bend in the tourney, the season was still an overwhelming success for a squad that began it’s season coach-less, and suffered endless adversity throughout it’s season.
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Calumet College of St. Joseph
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