Belles basketball copes with lost season
John Stolmeier | Friday, May 21, 2021
The Saint Mary’s basketball program looked forward to the 2021 season as an opportunity to compete at a high level and return to the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. But the team received bad news in the winter: the season they were looking forward to was never going to happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Belles head coach Melissa Makielski and her team were disappointed by the news, which was delivered over Zoom while the team was at home over the extended break Saint Mary’s winter break this year. All the team’s preseason goals were immediately thrown out the window after hearing the news of their canceled season.
“It was a huge shock for them when it initially happened,” Makielski said. “The hardest part was not having everybody together.”
Competition was out of the equation, and practice was complicated by the pandemic. The Belles stuck together and looked towards their seniors to lead the team through what essentially became an extended offseason. Regardless, the Saint Mary’s basketball squad stayed focused and continued to work together to improve.
“There was disappointment at the beginning… as an athlete, the sport you play is an outlet,” Makielski said. “Every team wants to get better throughout the season, and that remained our goal.”
Saint Mary’s basketball will have a tough time going into next season with star senior forward Giavanna Paradiso, a 1000-point scorer who led the team with more than 16 points and almost 7.5 rebounds per game, graduating this year. The Belles will also be losing two other seniors this year in guards Carin Kaminski and Sophie Koeppl.
Makielski spoke at length about all three of her graduating seniors: “I mean, statistically, [Paradiso] has been a driving force for our team… She changed the outlook of the program when she came in and really pushed everyone around her to get better. Carin has a passion for basketball and loves playing the game. She set an example for the younger players by practicing with the team this year when she didn’t have to. Sophie Koeppl one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around. Set the example for the rest of the team, especially our returners for next year.”
“All three of our seniors have left a mark on our program,” Makielski affirmed. She was adamant that the seniors were a key factor in keeping the team together this year.
The Belles will look to start strong coming back next year and continue to improve the program.