The road to recovery may be a lot harder than a road to a championship for the Missouri Tigers this season, as they are quickly finding out that their initial expectations on how the season would go are changing due to a plethora of injuries that are rapidly shrinking their bench.
“You go into the season and you’re so excited and the expectations you have for yourself and each other are so high,” said coach Pingeton, “but when you have injury after injury and it can be a little deflating and frustrating.” “It’s different than we all had anticipated but that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as enjoyable and we’ve just got to focus on owning it one day after the next and trusting in each other and believing in ourselves.”
Sophie Cunningham found zero minutes on the courts during yesterday’s game for the first time in her career. The unstoppable sophomore guard, who started in all 32 games her freshman year, as well as the first 11 games of this season, took her place on the bench next to Bri Porter and Jordan Frericks, both out for the season with ACL injuries, as well as Kayla McDowell who has been struggling with a persisting knee problem all season.
“It’s going to be day by day,” said coach Pingeton on Sophie’s lower back injury. “She’s such a competitor and obviously wants to be on the court but we’ve got to be smart about this one too.”
Cunningham, who was just named to 2017 Naismith Trophy Women’s College Player of the Year Preseason Watch List, may have to reluctantly take some time off, as the severity of her injury is still uncertain.
“I think it was towards the end of our Western [Illinois] game,” said coach Pingeton on the event that caused Cunningham’s injury. “She’s been in a lot of pain and very uncomfortable. It seemed like it was getting worse with more repetition and she really struggled with it against IUPUI. We’re still evaluating to see if it’s skeletal or muscular.”
The status of McDowell’s bad knee is also still in question as her trainers and doctors continue to find a prognosis.
While what is to come in the remainder of this season is uncertain, coach Pingeton said she is confident in the team she does have and will take them to battle no matter what. This doesn’t mean, however, that she would be opposed to picking up another body.
“We toyed with it [bringing on a walk on] for a little bit, said Pingeton about her short bench,” “but to find someone in that kind of shape is a hard thing to do. Not only that, but someone with the ability to come in and survive. This is an awfully close group and the bond and with the chemistry that they have I’ll take them to battle.”
The healthy players on Missouri are doing what they can to stay strong physically and mentally and filling big shoes by rising to the occasion despite these heartbreaking losses.
“I think we actually come together when we lose someone or someone’s out for a little bit. We just know we have to lift each other up and keep going,” Sierra Michaelis said about not letting fear of injury affect her play.
The Tigers take on Witchita State this Friday on their home court. Tipoff is at 7 p.m C.T and the starting lineup will be dependent on Cunningham’s upcoming evaluations.