Time of the Season…for WIU Women’s Basketball

Another women’s basketball season has begun, and busy they have been! The women’s team won Tuesday against Valparaiso University, and their next game will be in Macomb at Western Hall Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The head coach of the women’s basketball team, J.D. Gravina, told me what his second season as head coach has been like thus far.

Gravina explained that there are half new players and half returning players on the team this season. Since this is his second season as head coach, he explained that it’s been a big adjustment. “It’s kind of like we’re starting back over,” he began. “But overall, having those returners who know what to expect and what’s expected of them is helpful. Last year everyone was new,” Gravina said.

This season is larger than most with sixteen players. There are half returning players and half new players. With such a large number of new players this season, communication, camaraderie, and focus are critical aspects towards making the team successful. “Communication has been a huge thing.” Gravina began. “The fact that we get along really well [is our strongest asset]. You spend so much time together. You have sixteen girls that probably were the best players in their high school; now you throw them all into one group and they compete. Our group does a good job. When you truly care for your teammate, then it’s easy to be enthusiastic for the game,” he said.

Gravina continued explaining that the camaraderie between the players is crucial because having good interpersonal skills is not only important on the court, it’s also very important off the court. “Every job you have, relationship, and every group you’re a part of, there’s going to be people you like and don’t like. So you need to try to focus on the things you enjoy about your team…classes…your families, your social life…and not focus on things that will always be negative. That’s an important lesson for them,” he said. “Learning to realize that everything is relative and dealing with adversities is important.”

Not only has the women’s basketball team been working together on the court, but they also get involved in the community. Gravina said that the team has increased their community service efforts. “Our girls have already gone to the nursing home and played bingo, they’ve painted nails for some of the older ladies at the nursing home, they’ve worked with the Humane Society… we’re going to do a Big Pink Night for breast cancer. We’ve done beautification projects around campus too,” he said. “It helps the community and it really helps our players. The best part is the players really enjoy it.”

On the court, Gravina tries to create a very competitive atmosphere. He explained that having intense practice is very important. “We really focus on intensity,” he said. “And obviously we really focus on getting in shape and spend time running our offense. We’re playing three freshman during the games, and the competitiveness really helps.”

As for the seniors who will graduate in May, Gravina asked them what part they want to play towards the future of the team. “I ask the seniors if they want to go out and be a small step in the process, or do they want to go out and really take this program to the next level. It doesn’t mean they go to a Championship, but do they want to continue to grow? I think that has sunk in with them,” he said.

With seven games under their belt, the WIU women’s basketball team is 2-4 with a great season ahead of them. can catch the women play here in Macomb at Western Hall this Saturday night. At 4:30 p.m., the team will battle William Woods University. If you want to visit the women’s basketball athletics page, visit http://www.goleathernecks.com/SportSelect.dbml?&DB_OEM_ID=12000&SPID=4948&SPSID=49951. Come support our Fighting Leathernecks! Let’s go, ‘Necks!

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2012 WIU Men’s Soccer Team: What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger

The WIU’s Men’s Soccer team is going through some challenges this season, but the team finds ways to stay motivated, enthusiastic, and passionate about the game. Head Coach Eric Johnson explained why this season has been more arduous than others. Johnson said the season is not going as well as he had hoped it would due to the multiple injuries among many players. “We have a young team, and when we add injuries to it, it makes it more difficult,” Johnson began. “We’re on the right track and still have an opportunity to make the post-season tournament, but we have to win our last two home-games,” he said.

With players suffering broken bones, ligament damage, and another with a quadricep injury, Coach Johnson reminds players that like life, adversities will come your way. “The game, just like life, can change in a moment. Whether you think tomorrow’s going to arrive and everything will be all right, something might come up,” Johnson said.

Many of the younger players, including eight freshmen who are playing college soccer for the first time, are taking on a bigger role on the field. Johnson explained the freshmen might not realize that they are ready. “When you have a team that works together all the time and then you introduce new players, the [playing style] is interrupted because you have to learn everybody’s style,” Johnson said.

Although they’ve experienced challenges, the team continues to work hard each and every day. “The freshmen have learned quite a bit,” Johnson began, “The expectations that we set for the team will be easier for them [next season]. With all these new responsibilities that are being thrown at them right now, they can fall behind. So for next year, those freshmen guys will be better at that.”

To boost confidence and keep up morale, Johnson says what the team really needs is a win. “You get confidence from success. You have to experience success to gain confidence. If we can win, it’ll be very rewarding,” Johnson stressed. “The players who are out still show up for practice, and I’m sure they’re talking to their teammates on how they can improve. Their presence alone shows they still care. It’s very encouraging for the other guys,” he said.

Tomorrow, October 27, WIU’s Leatherneck’s will face Oral Roberts, a team WIU outscored last year. “We beat them last year which let us go to the NCAA tournament. It’s a home game, so that’s really good. We need a win, and so does [Oral Roberts], so I think it will be a really good game,” Johnson explained. “We’re on the right track and still have an opportunity to make the post-season tournament, but we have to win our last two home games. Saturday is a big game for us, and that’ll erase a lot of the negative,” Johnson emphasized.

The Fighting Leathernecks next three games will be on WIU’s turf. You can come out and give your support for WIU’s men’s soccer team! Saturday’s game begins at 1 p.m. A week later, on Saturday, November 3, WIU will face Kansas City at 1 p.m., and on Sunday, November 4, they will face Belmont at 1 p.m. You can visit the men’s soccer page at http://www.goleathernecks.com/SportSelect.dbml?&DB_OEM_ID=12000&SPID=4941&SPSID=49917. Let’s Go ‘Necks!