Following a tough loss to the Youngstown State Penguins Saturday, the Milwaukee Panthers return to the floor Thursday night to take on the Valparaiso Crusaders. The Panthers won the first matchup 82-60 back in January, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate what will happen this time around.
Coming in at 8-16 (4-9 Horizon) one might think traveling to Valpo would be a certain victory, but think again. Despite their record, the Crusaders boast an underrated group of scorers that can give the Panthers fits Thursday night. The Crusaders have six players that average over 10 points per-game in conference play. Panthers coach Kyle Rechlicz is not taking the Crusaders lightly. She is very aware of the difficulties that Valpo can cause her team.
“They’re a team that, when they’re clicking, can beat anybody in our league,” Rechlicz said. “We need to go into this game feeling like we’re playing Green Bay, Wright State… the top teams in our league.”
After Saturday’s loss, the Panthers found themselves with several things to improve upon, mainly remaining focused on the defensive end. But after a productive week of practice, Rechlicz and the Panthers feel they have figured it out and will right the wrongs that plagued them last Saturday.
“One of the big things that has increased this week is the focus,” Rechlicz said. “I think our players are starting to understand we’re only guaranteed seven games left.”
Rechlicz sites a team-building exercise conducted after Saturday’s loss as a major catalyst in her team’s urgency and returned focus. Overall, she was very pleased with the improvements her team showed in practice this week.
After a 2-point performance Thursday against Cleveland State, Sierra Ford-Washington returned to her normal self scoring 15 points Saturday against Youngstown. Following that performance and a confident week of practice, expect Ford-Washington to have another strong performance Thursday night.
“I think she’s definitely feeling more confident,” Rechlicz said. “She’s had a great week of practice and she is definitely stepping up more as a leader vocally.”
Despite the Crusaders underrated skill-set, the Panthers, spurned by Ford-Washington along with Jenny Lindner and Steph Kostowicz, may be too much for the Crusaders and leave “The ARC” victorious Thursday night. You can see for yourself at 7 p.m. on ESPN3 or The Big 920.