Everyone knows Rome was not built in a day. Hell, it probably took years to build the Coliseum. Not because it was an enormous structure with elaborate decorations set in the heart of the world’s premiere power, but because a creation did not always follow the blue print laid out for it. A stone might crack and another stone is needed to fill its place. A hinge might bend but it is so far entrenched into the structure that the remainder of the building must be built while that hinge is bent. But the difference between the stone and the hinge is that while one is replaceable, the other has become a foundation and therefore must be repaired. Because if it is replaced, the entire building falls and the project must begin all over again.
Welcome to the world of the West Chester University Lady Golden Rams basketball team. Their leading scorer is that hinge which is wedged so deeply into the foundation of the team but is bent just enough that her teammates must rally around her and keep chugging along.
Katie Kline has been out since early December with a broken foot. When she went down, it was not good, plain and simple. Her loss on the court was something the team could ill afford. A once promising season had taken a heavy blow to the gut. It hurt, badly. What almost all consider to be the most brutal part of the schedule was coming up and now had to be done without the premiere offensive threat on the team. A large chunk of the stretch of games came on a vicious road trip over the semester break.
A daunting task, the trip may one day soon be looked at as a turning point in the season, as it had some rays of light which came at the most opportune moment. A loss is a loss, this is true. But against Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) the Lady Rams played some of their best basketball of the season. They lost by ten points to the 12th ranked team in the country. IUP was considered far superior on the court than any other team in the PSAC. But West Chester put up as good a fight as anyone could have imagined against a nationally ranked opponent, on the road, following a few heartbreaking losses, without their top scorer.
“It was definitely a big loss with her [Kline] out, but I think we’ve made the adjustment now in practice and everything we’ve been working on,” junior guard Natalie Winters said of the loss of Kline.
Suddenly, things were starting to click. The energy level that had been so vibrant for the first three weeks of games was reappearing. The lingering emotional burden that the girls seemed to carry after losing Kline was slowly being lifted. They challenged the unchallengeable. And now, they were beginning to believe in themselves.
With no official word on the potential return of Kline, the girls fought to the finish only losing by two points to Clarion University. Clarion, another western powerhouse, was tightly contested by the Lady Rams, with the team feeling they should have not only won that game, but should have won it convincingly. But no matter the outcome of that game, the brutal stretch of games was over. It was time to prepare for the PSAC East Division match-ups, the games that truly mattered more than any other game on the schedule. Every game does count but it is the month and a half of division games that will determine who goes to the playoffs and who goes home. And first up was Kutztown.
This past Saturday morning, the girls woke knowing full well Kline again would not be able to join her comrades on the court. But even without one of the many star players on the team the girls knew the importance of starting off 1-0 in the conference. And so they did. In what was one of the most complete basketball games played all year by the Lady Rams, they flew all over the court to the tune of a convincing 68-56 victory over the Golden Bears in the semi-annual Battle for Golden Glory (as dubbed by the Voice of Lady Rams basketball, Mike DeSumma).
Everyone stepped up in the victory. The day was great because the team had won. And then the big news hit. The rays of light had been getting brighter and brighter every day with confidence levels rising since the IUP game, but this day the rays pushed just a little harder. Kline, jersey number 44, was going to return this season. Rehabbing her broken foot like crazy, it is only a matter of time until Kline suits up again. With no date set in stone for her return, the team must keep playing as one. The team knows it can not afford to wait for Kline to take off. They must make her the added bonus that will take them to the next level upon her return.
“When she comes back that should just be a plus. It’ll be a bonus; it’ll be a plus. We’re going to be in the driver seat when Katie joins us and we’ll just put our foot on the gas,” head coach Deirdre Kane said of the future return of Kline.
The Lady Rams are re-invigorated. They played a phenomenal game against a national juggernaut and only a week later won their division opener. The girls have momentum and must continue to ride it as long as they are on the court. The return of Katie Kline is inevitable. Fourteen other girls will stand together until she does. And when Katie Kline returns, fifteen girls will stand together, until the very end.
Mike Heiman is a third-year student majoring in Elementary Education with a minor in literacy. He is the color commentaor for women’s basketball on 91.7 FM WCUR. He can be reached at MH606613@wcupa.edu