Columbia College women's basketball team works to overcome injuries

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 | 10:17 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Three players sit on the sidelines with their legs extended, watching their teammates on the Columbia College women's basketball team practice free throws.

Junior Laurel Wichmann and senior captains Kayla Rice and Amanda Philips are out for the season, but the Cougars haven't given up.

"Everyone has to step up and take a large chunk of losing the leading scorer, losing the leading rebounder, losing a lot of height and speed," Phillips said. "Everyone is perfectly capable. It’s just that they have to get there themselves, so it's all about building."

Phillips, who tore the ACL in her right knee at practice Nov. 21, played one too many games to be eligible for an National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics redshirt. She will have to finish her senior season from the bench.

Wichmann had surgery on a meniscus tear, after she injured her knee in the first game of the season at Central Methodist University. She transferred over the summer from Penn Valley Community College. Wichmann is now wearing what she referred to as a "baby boot."

Rice is the most recent player to fall to an ACL injury, hurting her left knee in practice Friday. Rice was named American Midwest Conference Player of the Week recently and is currently the Cougars' leading scorer.

"Definitely, it was hard when Amanda first got hurt and we also said, 'We have to stay together,' we still had Kayla," freshman Tierney Seifert said. "Then whenever Kayla got hurt, I just knew that I had to set up, and she had big shoes to fill, but I think I can do it with all their help and support."

In their first game with all three players out, the Cougars beat MidAmerica Nazerene 63-58 on Tuesday in Olathe, Kan., to improve to 8-3 this season.

Along with Seifert, everyone on the team is having to step up and play a different position. At point guard, a position she does not like, Heather English led the team Tuesday with 22 points.

"We’re having to get comfortable getting uncomfortable," Makenzie Smith said.

The Cougars have to change positions and strategies but not their outlook.

"The outlook shouldn’t change, I think we should still have the same goal of going to nationals," Phillips said. "I think we should still have the same exact goals that we had, it’s just that people have to work harder."

The Cougars play their first game at The Arena at Southwell Complex in two weeks at 2 p.m Saturday when they take on University of Cumberlands.

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