Injured Steinbauer still has plenty to offer

first_img6-foot-1 senior forward Tara Steinbauer suffered a torn ACL just two minutes into the Wisconsin’s 59-44 loss to Iowa that ended her senior season. Steinbauer averaged 10.5 points per game for UW.[/media-credit]The foundation of the Wisconsin women’s basketball team shuddered last Wednesday when everyone inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena saw an individual’s career end right before their eyes.The game was a crucial matchup for Wisconsin, trying to stay right behind first place in the Big Ten. The Badgers had lost seven straight games to the Hawkeyes, and barely two minutes into the contest, senior forward Tara Steinbauer went down with a torn ACL, and the Badgers were on their way to eight straight.Now, a week later, Steinbauer and the rest of her teammates and coaches are doing everything in their power to keep that foundation from crumbling at the end of a season still full of promise.Despite her ailing knee, Steinbauer refused to be a weak spot on the team. After getting the official news about her ACL, Steinbauer sent a text message to her teammates, writing, ‘although my season is over, our season is not over.’Giving up on their goals, no matter the reason, is not an option for anyone associated with these Badgers. Players and coaches know how much they will continue to miss the on-the-floor presence of Steinbauer, but the confidence they show in each other never seems to waver.“It is about perseverance, and it’s about adversity, and we’ve been in it before,” head coach Lisa Stone said. “We endured it earlier in the season, and I’m a very confident coach in this team in terms of them coming through this as well.”The faith that everyone on the team shares in one another will surely help the Badgers to remain focused on what lies ahead, but it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for them to replace Steinbauer.“Tara is such a leader on this team, both on the court [and] off the court, just her personality,” senior guard Alyssa Karel said.Steinbauer won’t lose her ability to lead in the locker room, but she was also a statistical and vocal leader on the floor. She must now find other ways to help her team.“My role has sort of transitioned a lot,” Steinbauer said. “I think what I can do for [the team] is to make sure the next person is ready and to make sure that we are staying together.”Searching for positives in a seemingly gloomy situation is something probably few are good at, but Steinbauer is excited for the opportunity that her teammates will get to have as they try to fill the void.Stone has already announced that junior forward Anya Covington will get a chance to take advantage of the opportunity and make her fifth start of the season Wednesday versus the Indiana Hoosiers in Wisconsin’s final home game of the season. Freshman forward Cassie Rochel is expected to make a sizeable impact as well.“Cassie Rochel’s minutes at Iowa were huge for us in terms of experience. We’re going to need her down the stretch, big time,” Stone said. “Anya Covington, a junior, we expect a lot out of her and hope that she can really step into the fold right now.”Covington and Rochel will attempt to make up for the 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds that Steinbauer averaged per game. Covington is currently averaging 3.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, and Rochel is averaging 0.9 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in a very limited role that is expected to increase quite dramatically after logging 29 minutes the past two games.The team chemistry may be a little off in the games to come, but the Badgers will have to adjust quickly if they are going to make any noise in the Big Ten or NCAA tournaments. Four years of familiarity among the seniors is something that forward Lin Zastrow says cannot be replaced.Plans have already been made to use in-game footage of Steinbauer to help prepare the less experienced post players in hope that they may emulate Steinbauer’s often impressive defense.Wisconsin may also use the new offensive wrinkle of a four guard offense that allows for better movement, lane penetration and spreading the floor so Zastrow can work the inside. Senior guard Emily Neal made her first start of the year Saturday against Michigan in place of Steinbauer and along with freshman reserve Morgan Paige, gave the offense a spark.A lot of questions remain ahead for Wisconsin, and the Badgers will have a very short amount of time to discover the answers, but if everyone can handle the loss of Steinbauer as well as Steinbauer herself, they may be just fine.Steinbauer says after her injury it has been her teammates that have lifted her up and now it is her turn, and Karel agrees that Steinbauer still plays a huge role for this team.“Looking at her and saying I am still out here, I can still play, look at her. If she is not motivation enough to go out there and give it all we got there is something wrong with us.”It looks as if that foundation may still be as solid as ever.last_img read more