Olympians fight for playoff bid

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Olympians fight for playoff bid

Ray San Giovanni, Sports Editor

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The start of spring semester means the madness of the Super Bowl is behind us and the smell of hot dogs fill the air in preparation for baseball season. Basketball can slip into the back of our minds. The  2016-17 Mesa Women’s basketball season is ending, but with a little hard work and luck, could see a  playoff berth.

The coach is only in her second year with the team, so calling this year a “rebuilding” season may not make a lot of sense. However, in their first year, the Olympians posted a 12-11 record, going an impressive 10-4 in conference play. Due to last year’s success and the void left by the departing veterans, this year is in fact a rebuilding year. With only three players returning from last year’s team, Head Coach Ciara Iglehart had a lot of hard work and preparation in front of her. “I purposely scheduled a very tough preseason. The philosophy behind this was that the team would hit the ground running when it came time for conference play” says Iglehart.

However, the start of the season was rough on the Olympians. After splitting the first two games, the team went 1-10 in the next 11 games. “We didn’t have our core group of players out there” says Iglehart.

A key aspect of a good team is a solid group of veterans. In the community college system, it is hard to keep a team together, especially when the players are balancing school, work, and basketball. After a tough start, player injuries mended, the Olympians got the ball rolling, winning 5-9 at the start of the new year. Led by a couple veteran Sophomores in Guard/Forward Lindsey Veleker (#11) and Guard Asal Pourhedari (#5).

Veleker is almost averaging a “double double”  with 14.3 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game, while Pourhedari manages the game from the point guard position with 11.5 points per game. “We weren’t sure if Leah was going to play on the team this year. She was on the fence about playing, but right when she hit the court, I knew we had something special” says Iglehart. “At the beginning of the year we didn’t have Asal. She went back home to Iran be with family. It was really good getting her back.”

Best case scenario for a team in a rebuilding stage is having a good group of veterans that can teach the younger players and string the team along for a year, but with so few returning players this year Coach Iglehart took a different approach. “I had more talks with this team than the past year. If there was one thing I wanted them to take away from this season, it was self-motivation.”

Even after a tough year, the Olympians are down, but not out. Three of their last four games are conference games. If they can win their remaining conference games, with a little help around the league, they could be playoff bound.

The Olympians take on Grossmont at home on Feb. 15 at 5 P.M.

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