Blazer Beat: Getting Back In The Groove

 

By Nathan Tucker

nrtucker@lc.edu

A new year of Trailblazer sports is finally upon us, after a near-eleven month COVID-caused layoff. Nearly every L&C team is active this semester, and February has already been a busy month on the hardwood for Trailblazer basketball and volleyball.

It is a different time for Trailblazer sports, games are a bit quieter nowadays without passionate fans and the continuous soundtracks of rap music. More importantly, fresh faces and departing sophomores have given L&C teams a bit of a makeover since they last took the court.

Take the men’s basketball team for example, back in action with three games in the past week, with only two returning sophomores from the 2019-2020 team that qualified for regionals, the team’s best season at the Division I level of NJCAA basketball since their jump from Division II now eleven years ago.

On the other hand, the women’s basketball and volleyball teams, that were loaded with freshman talent last season, return numerous sophomores and will lean on that experience as they navigate the early days of the 2021 season. 

These early days have proven to be a bit of a struggle, unfortunately, for the Trailblazer teams that have been active thus far. No Lewis & Clark side has put a tally in the win column just yet, in nine games of combined season play. 

The Trailblazer men’s basketball team, loaded with freshmen talent, have had to deal with a very tough schedule early. A big loss to open the season against an experienced SWIC Blue Storm got the season off on the wrong foot, a trend that has continued for coach Doug Stotler’s team.

Their last loss, a 21-point defeat, came at the hands of Olney Central College, who fell just short of the NJCAA Division I Top 25 Rankings for the week of Feb. 8. Like SWIC, Olney returned multiple sophomores that impacted the score sheet. 

Game management is where the Trailblazer men could improve to change their early fortunes. Costly turnovers, poor shot clock management and sloppy play while trailing have sank L&C in early action. 

For the women’s hoops team, contests have been closer, and there is reason to believe fortunes will change once some consistency can be found in an unusual season. Two returning lead scorers from last year’s team are back in, Mary Penland-Holmes and Miata Borders, the former making a big impact on the court for head coach Jaron Young’s basketball team.

Young will look for better execution offensively from his Trailblazers, who have shown the ability to shoot from all over but have not really looked cohesive offensively or defensively thus far. That cohesiveness as a unit can prove the difference between wins and losses, primarily late in games.

Consider the last L&C women’s home game as of this writing, a 74-59 loss to St. Louis Community College in their Feb. 9th game. The Trailblazers were tied at half, 30-30, but let the game get away from them defensively in the second half, and could not match St. Louis CC’s pace on the other end of the floor.

Since that home game, the Trailblazers have struggled offensively, capped by a Valentine’s Day 43-23 loss to Danville. For the college basketball unfamiliar, that is 23 points scored in 40 minutes of game time. The good news for the L&C women, I suppose, is that there is no way but up following a loss like that.

Coach Bron Wilkerson’s Trailblazer volleyball team returns sophomores with experience, but have run into a bit of a brick wall so far this season, yet to tally a win in competitive play. It is a smaller group this year with just eight on the roster, and coach Wilkerson has done a little tinkering so far to figure out the best alignment for the squad.

Their best performance came on the road at St. Louis Community College – Forest Park, where L&C grabbed their first set wins of the season, but ultimately fell in the final set and lost the match 3-2. Bron Wilkerson will look to capture what the Trailblazers found in those sets and get in the win column this season. 

The first few weeks of Trailblazer sports after the layoff have laid bare the struggles and challenges for its teams, and all of them will be looking to right the ship before it is too late to turn around. Progress is being made game by game, and as coaches love to say, you can only take these situations one game at a time.

Fans and followers can keep up with Trailblazers by watching live streams for home games from all sports on the LCCC YouTube channel. Men’s basketball home games will also have live radio coverage on 89.9 FM, as Trailblazer sports return to the WLCA airwaves.

For schedules and further information, visit The L&C Athletics home page.

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