At noon ET Saturday, Saginaw Valley State senior forward Emily Wendling will make her final trip to GVSU Fieldhouse and face Grand Valley State. For Wendling, it will be another memory in already memorable career playing for the Cardinals.
“It is such a great campus,” Wendling said. “The athletic department here always have your best interest in mind. It has been a perfect fit for me,”
One of the things that Wendling has enjoyed is the rivalry with Grand Valley. Saturday will be the first meeting of the season.
These two schools met four times a year ago. Saginaw Valley won the two regular-season games. Grand Valley got its revenge by winning in the semifinals of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament and again in the semifinals of the Midwest Regional.
Everything points to another competitive game between these two programs. Saginaw Valley is 12-3 overall and 8-1 and in first place in the North Division of the GLIAC. Grand Valley is 11-4 and 6-3, tied for second in the North Division.
Given the competitive nature of this rivalry, it is easy to understand why the women’s and then the men’s game will be televised on American Sports Network (ASN) at noon and 2 p.m, respectively.
“Our games last year with Grand Valley were really competitive,” said Saginaw Valley coach Jamie Pewinski said. “Three of the four were super competitive. They are an excellent team. Playing on their home floor, we will have to bring our best game. I think you are going to see a high level of competition from both programs.”
The competition on Saturday will only add to a wonderful five years Wendling has experienced at Saginaw Valley, which even included an injury in the 2013-14 season, which led to a medical redshirt.
Wendling bounced back the next season and averaged 15.7 points. Last season her scoring average jumped to 18.1 points. She also averaged 9.3 rebounds and earned GLIAC player of the year.
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She is having another stellar season, averaging 17.1 points. Last week she was selected GLIAC North Division player of the week.
“It is a tough thing to do to come off a player of the year campaign and then you turn around and are expected to do it again,” Pewinski said. “We rely on her to do so much for us on the offensive end and defensive end.”
Wendling is quick to say the success of the Cardinals extends beyond one or two players.
“We are getting contributions from everyone,” Wendling said. “Everyone is doing a good job of coming in and getting the job done. I think that is a huge part this year. Defenses can’t focus on just one or two people. They have to worry about everyone on the floor. Everybody is doing a good job of working together as a team and that has helped our team this year.”
“She has elevated her game to a whole new level,” Pewinski said. “Without those two, we are probably not going very far this year. They have been able to lead us on both ends of the floor. They lead us in timeouts and they lead us off the floor.
“They have been through so much in this program and done so much for us. Any success they get is well deserved because there are not two kids who work harder than those two.”
Pewinski is proud how the Cardinals have battled through adversity, losing some players for games because of injuries. Saginaw Valley heads into Thursday’s home game against Ferris State on a four-game winning streak.
“Someone seems to step up and continue to play well,” Pewinski said. “I think that is a testament to the culture we are building here as a program. It is what you need to do at this level because one injury can really change the way you play. Players on the bench ready to step up have been huge for us. We hope that continues as we go through the season.”
Midseason showdown in the PSAC
The California (Pa.) women’s basketball team should be excited for its Saturday home game against Mercyhurst. Tipoff is at 3 p.m.
California (Pa.), 17-1 overall and ranked No. 6 in the WBCA top 25, is 11-1 and tied for second with Mercyhurst in the West Division of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Mercyhurst is 16-2 overall. The team in first place in the West Division is Edinboro, which is 16-2 overall and 12-0 in conference. California (Pa.) will play host to Edinboro on Jan. 28. But given Saturday’s opponent, there is no way the Vulcans are looking ahead.
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Seattle Pacific women face must-win game against Alaska-Anchorage
Playing at home at 7 p.m. local (PT) Thursday, Seattle Pacific gets an opportunity against a highly-ranked opponent to rebound from a two-game losing streak.
Seattle Pacific, 13-3 overall and 5-3 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, takes on fifth-ranked Alaska-Anchorage, 15-1 and 8-0. Alaska-Anchorage is trying to stay ahead of Western Washington, which is 8-1 in conference.