With an injury-plagued roster this season, Nebraska has had to rely heavily on their scout team, coach Connie Yori said.
Nebraska was known last year as a pressing man-to-man defense. That was before the slew of injuries this season. Junior center Adrianna Maurer, freshman guard Courtney Aitken, sophomore guard Brandi Jeffery and freshman guard Sadie Murren – all out with injuries. Plus, senior forward Meghin Williams will participate in a couple of practice drills, but very little else, she said.
“It does change your style,” Yori said. “It changes who you are, it changes what you do.”
Last year, Nebraska played man-to-man defense on every possession. Against Minnesota earlier this season, though, the Huskers played no possessions of man-to-man defense.
While Nebraska only practices with seven players, it does play eight in a game, adding Williams who does not practice. Williams’ injured foot and ankle, which was caused by overuse, will not be recovered this season either. Williams is set to have surgery once the season is over and continues to work through pain, even in games, she said.
“Most of the time I’ll make one sharp cut, and it’ll go numb for the rest of the game,” she said.
Because Williams has to recover from her ongoing injury each week, she sits on the sideline for most of practice, she said. Even from the sideline, though, teammates have felt each other’s presence.
“The people on the sidelines who aren’t actually in the drill are very engaged, bringing a lot of energy from the sidelines,” senior guard Lindsey Moore said. “So it’s not one of those things where they’re feeling sorry for themselves. They add to our practice just like they were to be out there.”
But energy will not help develop players. Williams has a tough time picking up the new schemes each week, she said, because she doesn’t get the hands-on experience in practice. While the experience of being in Nebraska’s system for a few years has helped her preparation, others aren’t so lucky.
“I think it’s definitely changed our season because those reps aren’t there, that practice isn’t there, so those habits aren’t being built,” Williams said.
Yori has had to adjust the team this year with the lack of players and is cautious not to push the team too hard, she said.
“As the season wears on,” Yori said, “particularly the situation we’re in where we just don’t have very many kids, you have to be very careful with over practicing.”
Nebraska benefited greatly from their bye week this past weekend, as even the girls who are healthy are banged up, Yori said. But it was back to grind this week, which doesn’t exactly amount to full practices in Nebraska’s case.
“It’s hard when we don’t have enough healthy bodies to be playing and practicing like we want to,” Moore said.
But it’s just one of those seasons you have to fight through, Yori said.
That seems to be the way the team has responded too, as players, such as Williams and Rachel Theriot, who is set for surgery at the end of the season, have continued to play through injuries. That represents the type of kids Yori recruits, Williams said.
“The fact that we’re dealing with it the way we are dealing with it doesn’t surprise me,” Williams said.