Western’s women’s basketball team started the season at the beginning of November and now has a 4-4 record. Their last game was a loss to the UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago) Flames by a score of 54-67; the game was quite the battle for our Leathernecks. Today our Leathernecks will take on Bradley in Peoria at 7 p.m. The team also has a home game this Friday versus Eastern Illinois at 7 p.m.
I interviewed Head Coach JD Gravina and he explained to me that he is excited for the team to take the next step. “The previous years we’ve showed a lot of improvement and now we are at the point where more improvement is where we want to be…a winning record, at the top tier of the conference, and making a post season tournament,” said Gravina. Anything is possible at the beginning of the season, so excitement and hopes for our Leathernecks are at an ultimate high right now.
Gravina explained the team’s strengths and weaknesses. “Strengths wise, we have the preseason player of the year, Ashley Luke. She’s a dominant post player. We have a couple really good players around her…Tori Niemann and Michelle Maher…who was also a preseason conference player. We have some good team depth. We have a lot of kids that can step in and play good roles. I’d say weakness, right now, we need to be better at being more consistent,” said Gravina. I have faith that our Leathernecks will continue to push forward and finish the season strong.
Junior post player Ashley Luke really enjoys being on the WIU basketball team. “The best part is having a second family away from home. My teammates are some outstanding girls and I’m so happy to get to work together with them, playing a sport we love,“ said Luke. After interviewing so many student athletes at WIU, I have noticed that they all have a strong sense of family. I think that a support system like this is very important during our college years. Luke also explained how being on the team has given her great pride for Western. “There is great camaraderie between the athletes and it makes school a lot more fun. Also, it connects me with other students who are invested in WIU Athletics as well as community members,” said Luke. I strongly believe networking in college is just as important as getting good grades. You make ties with people that can help you get your first professional job. It sounds like the WIU athletes have a strong network.
Luke currently ranks in Western’s top ten scoring average (2nd with 15.7). I asked Coach Gravina what makes her so successful on the court. “She’s a really hard worker and a great athlete. She can out jump most players. She’s really strong. She works really hard on her game off the court and so I think the combination of having that natural ability, but also being such a hard worker, has made her such a good player,” said Coach Gravina. I can attest to Luke being a hard worker because we have the same major, journalism (with a public relations focus), so I have seen her hard work in many classes. I honestly don’t know if I have ever met someone that works as hard as she does. It is no wonder that she is so successful both on and off the court.
For more information on WIU Women’s Basketball, visit http://www.goleathernecks.com/index.aspx?path=wbball&.