Abby Bloetcher and Tamara Wells are just two of six players that have been hindered with injures this season. Nick Camacho Mustang Daily File Photo
Abby Bloetcher and Tamara Wells are just two of six players that have been hindered with injures this season. Nick Camacho Mustang Daily File Photo

Abby Bloetscher, a sophomore post player for Cal Poly’s women’s basketball team, was at a river in her hometown last August when she slipped and fell 10 feet off a rock ledge to a lower rock. Breaking her foot upon landing, Bloetscher was unable to play in the first two games of the season.

She isn’t the only player on the team that has been effected by injures this year. Six others are injured, most of them unable to participate in practices and games.

Head coach Faith Mimnaugh said there are already more injuries this year than last year, when five players were unable to play due to heel injuries. The squad has had to make several adjustments in its first games of the season due to injuries.

“It’s definitely been impacting us,” Mimnaugh said. “We’ve had to shuffle people around the court and put them in positions that they are not used to. We are really trying to fill the gaps, but it’s hard for players to adjust to positions that they don’t usually play.”

Junior forward Kristina Santiago has been suffering from back pain since the beginning of the season.

She has been seeing a chiropractor, undergoing massage therapy and attending rehabilitation on the Cal Poly campus. By maintaining a daily rehabilitation schedule and limiting herself during practice, Santiago managed to play in the opening games this season.

“It usually happens at the beginning of every year,” Santiago said. “I find that I take advantage of being healthy and think that I can get away with not stretching and keeping up my rehab.”

Santiago, who led the team last year with 16 scores, said that although she is being diligent about taking care of her injuries, there is always the possibility that she will become too disabled to play.

“This happened last year where they had to keep me out for a couple of games and players from the second string had to step up,” she said. “This year, we don’t really have set roles yet, so I don’t know who would fill my spot if I wasn’t able to play.”

Though Santiago has been able to play in the first couple of games, other players have not been so lucky.

Senior guard Tamara Wells is officially out for the season due to a hip injury. She underwent surgery on earlier this season.

“I only half expected Tamara to be out. We didn’t have any verdict until recently,” Mimnaugh said.

Two freshmen players are also suffering injuries. Nikol Allison, a 6-foot-2 forward, is set to be out for the season due to a broken foot. She had surgery on her foot, but is not expected to heal before the season is over. Kayla Griffen, a freshman guard, is currently unable to play due a foot injury, but is expected to recover during the season.

“In one-on-one coaching sessions, they’ve both expressed great frustration and concern. They are trying to have a good outlook, but nobody likes to be sidelined,” Mimnaugh said.

In addition to the two new additions to the team, returning players Christine Martin, who joined the lineup this year as a guard from being a redshirt last year and Colleen Garrett, a sophomore forward, are also currently unable to play due to a back injury and a torn calf muscle, respectively.

Mimnaugh said that despite the injuries, with 18 players, the team can fill the missing spots.

“We carry a very large squad anyway because it’s expected that there we are going to have players out with injuries,” she said.

The difficulty lies in moving players to positions they do not typically play. In early season games, Mimnaugh had to move players who typically play guard positions into forward positions.

“The challenge came in learning how to guard someone who is 20 to 30 pounds heavier than you. Girls were giving up based on sheer size. From a defensive standpoint, we are definitely struggling,” Mimnaugh said.

At 6-foot-3, Bloetscher said that it has been a challenge to put other players in her place.

“I’m the tallest girl on the team so I’m a pretty big presence on the court. People had to play post that don’t usually. Allie, Becky and Kristina have all been shifting around,” Bloetscher said. “They’ve been doing really good at filling the injured player’s spots, even though some of them are more dominant in other positions.”

Bloetscher has been doing physical therapy every day with trainers in Cal Poly’s training room. All of her therapy is funded by Cal Poly, some of which includes range of motion exercises, icing and heating, ultrasound therapy, whirlpool therapy and strength exercises.

Bloetscher made her return against Pepperdine and saw 11 minutes of playing time.

“It’s just really frustrating. I want to be out there helping my team, but I can’t,” she said.

However anxious the players might be to get back on the court, Mimnaugh said that she wants to make sure the players are fully healed to avoid further injury.

In the case that more players become injured or currently injured players cannot return to play, Mimbaugh said that she would not add more players to the squad.

“We would just go with what we have. To bring someone new onto the team at this point would be very difficult,” Mimnaugh said.

The bond between the team members is already developed, which might explain why the injured players attend every practice and game to support their teammates.

“At practices they can pass the ball or give the other girls advice. It actually really helps when they give insight to the girls on the court from the sidelines,” Mimnaugh said.

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