Early season injuries have forced Madison College women’s basketball coach Lois Heeren to juggle her line up throughout the team’s first nine games this season. In fact, only two players have started every game and 7 of the 11 players on the roster have missed games.
One of the players who has missed time this season came up big for the WolfPack in their come-from-behind victory against visiting Elgin Community College on Dec. 2.
Cheyenne Jo Udelhoven, who said she recently returned from an ACL injury, scored 8 of Madison College’s final 11 points in a 52-47 victory against visiting Elgin Community College.
Udelhoven hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the game to give her team a 47-43 lead and then sank a pair of free throws with just under 30 seconds left to help seal the win. Prior to that, she had only hit 1 of 8 shots she had taken.
“Finally, we just had the momentum and I started hitting them when we needed it,” Udelhoven said. “It was nice that the team had my back, because I hadn’t hit them (3-pointers) in the beginning. So it was really nice for them to be keeping me up, just knowing like, ‘hey, you can do it.’”
Caitlyn Gilbertson added the only other points for the WolfPack during the closing minutes, with a rebound basket and a free throw.
The victory came over a 5-1 opponent, but was a game Heeren felt her team should have been able to control despite its injuries.
“They’re 5-1, they haven’t played a lot of great competition, but nonetheless they’re 5-1,” Heeren said of Elgin. “Obviously, they’ve been doing something right. We’ve lost our last two games, so we needed to get back on that winning track.”
“We really struggled tonight. We didn’t play extremely well on either end of the floor, defense or offense, but you know we found a way to win,” she added.
One constant for Madison College this season has been the play of sophomore guard/forward Megan Corcoran.
She and Gilbertson have been the only two players to start every game this year. Corcoran averages 20 points a game, while Gilbertson averages just over 10 points. In the game against Elgin, Corcoran scored 22 points and Gilbertson had nine.
But Corcoran’s defense may have played as big of a role in the win over Elgin as her offense.
After playing match-up zone defense for much of the game because of foul trouble, Madison College switched to a man-to-man defense with under 8 minutes left in the game while trailing, 43-38.
Corcoran got the task of covering Elgin’s Rachel Dumoulin, who had already scored 27 points in the game. Aside from two free throws with 30 seconds left, Corcoran helped to hold Dumoulin scoreless the rest of the way.
“She’s a good player, definitely, and I was a little surprised when I got the job of guarding her,” Corcoran said of her Elgin opponent. “Usually, I’m not the one to guard the best player on the team because I’m a little slow on defense. But I have to get my confidence up, so coach is trying to really work with me on it.”
Heeren said she decided to have Corcoran match up with the opponent’s top scorer in the final quarter because Corcoran’s size gave her an advantage.
“She (Corcoran) just has some length. So if she just gets her hands up right, she’s bigger than 5-8 and that’s what that kid was, 5-8,” Heeren said. “You try to put some length on a good shooter, so I was trying to do that as opposed to a smaller kid she could just shoot right over.”
While pleased with the win, Heeren had wanted to see a better performance from her squad. Madison College committed 23 turnovers in the game, had key players in foul trouble throughout the game and only hit 34 percent of its shots.
“We found a way to win right at the end of the game,” Heeren said. “It shouldn’t have been this kind of struggle. We just need to play better, bottom line, we just need to do a better job on both ends of the floor. We had way too many turnovers, we gave up too many offensive rebounds. You hope each game, it’s a learning experience for them. We keep learning and growing each game.”
Heeren said she is looking forward to getting some of her injured players back, although she’s not sure how soon they will return. Even some of the players who played against Elgin were nursing injuries and could be seen wrapped in ice after the win.
Among those she’s hoping to get back soon is second-year guard Peyton Trapino, who has started and played in three games this season. She averages more than 15 points and six rebounds a game after being one of the team’s top players a year ago.
“We’ve got a ton of injuries,” Heeren said. “We are not healthy at all, and so we are just surviving to get through. We’ve got three kids that are injured and I’m not sure when we are getting those back. … We’ve got some knee injuries that are playing. But give them credit, they keep working hard. But we’ve got a tough stretch coming up.”
Madison College is now 4-5 overall and has four games remaining until the team gets a break for the holidays. The team’s final game before the break is at home on Dec. 15 against Kishwaukee College. Following that, the team will have more than two weeks to get healthy before conference play begins at Triton College on Jan. 3.