The season-opener did not go quite as planned for the Colorado State womenâ€™s basketball team, losing its home opener and first game of the season 74-50 to the Panthers of Northern Iowa.
The Rams knew it was going to be a good test with UNI coming off of winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament last year and getting its first bid to the NCAA Tournament.
â€œWe knew it was a tough team. They came in and dominated, but bad shooting didnâ€™t help,â€ junior Kim Mestdagh said.
A young CSU team struggled shooting from the field, hitting only 25 percent of its field goals, and relying on two veteran players from overseas to carry the team Friday night.
Juniors Chatilla van Grinsven, of the Netherlands, and Mestdagh, from Belgium, were the Ramsâ€™ top performers against UNI and will be looked to throughout the season for veteran leadership and solid performances throughout.
â€œThey are huge if we are going to improve upon last year; they have got to be consistent for us,â€ CSU coach Kristen Holt said of her two juniors.
While the upperclassmen were not happy with the outcome, they were pleased with the teamâ€™s effort.
â€œWe hustled and our effort was good enough, but we have got to do it the whole game, canâ€™t take any breaks,â€ van Grinsven said.
Van Grinsven, who had a game-high 16 points, accounted for seven rebounds and two steals, is the Ramsâ€™ most experienced post player and will have to be a large presence down low all season long.
â€œShe played much better than in the exhibition. She made some things happen defensively and played hard,â€ Holt said.
Mestdagh turned in a double-double, putting up 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Opposing teams will scheme their defenses to stop her, but that does not mean the Rams want to keep the ball out of her hand.
â€œShe gets keyed on, she has to work hard for everything she gets,â€ Holt said. â€œI want her touching the ball every possession.â€
Things are not going to get easier for CSU anytime soon as the Rams travel to Tallahassee, Fla., on Thursday to take on the 14th-ranked Florida State Seminoles. The Rams know that this will be a big test early in the year and will focus on improving as a team this week in preparation, not on their upcoming opponent.
â€œ(FSU) is a very good team. We have got to concentrate on getting ourselves better. I like our team, I like our work ethic; we are going to continue to get better,â€ Holt said.
Womenâ€™s basketball Beat Reporter David de Besche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.