It’s impossible to point to just one player on the women’s basketball team and call any one of them the key to the program’s success. Seriously, where would the team be without third-year Miranda Burt’s decisive defense or fourth-year guard Jamie Kockenmeister’s game-determining drive in the Maroons’ one-point win against Illinois Wesleyan in early November? Could the Maroons have clenched their mid-December victory against Rose-Hulman without third-year Mia Farrell’s strong handling of the ball or third-year Olariche Obi’s solid presence under the basket? Make no mistake, this is a team of well-weathered veterans; however, the bench players make their mark too. First-year forward Klaire Steffens proved a fresh force to be reckoned with as she amassed nine points and captured 11 rebounds against Elmhurst in early December. It is an undeniable fact that all the players on the court—and off on the bench—make the women’s basketball program one to follow as they approach the end of their season.
Last year, the Maroon ladies went undefeated in the UAA, claiming their conference title uncontested. With a heavy schedule of important conference games coming up, the Maroons are deep into preparation to defend their UAA title. Looking to repeat past victories, it is pivotal that this season’s leading scorer, third-year Taylor Lake, keeps her defensive skills sharp and her shooting even sharper. In this season alone, Lake has already been named UAA’s Athlete of the Week.
Looking back on Lake’s presence in past seasons, her contributions in games are evident. During the 2017–18 season, Lake was placed on the UAA All-Academic Team and appointed to the Second Team All-UAA, a title she surely will not collect this year—instead, Lake is more than deserving of the First Team All-UAA recognition. Last season, Lake led in points for eight of her 27 games played, but this season she has already led in an impressive eight of 16 games she has played so far, beaten out for a ninth only by a single point in her last game against NYU. Averaging about 15.1 points per game, her presence on the scoreboard has gone up noticeably throughout the season. In the team’s first run with Lake Forest College in November, Lake put up 15 points. In fact, in the 10 of her 16 games this season, Lake has put up 15 or more points on the offensive front. With team points per game estimated at 71.2, Lake on average contributes more than one-fifth of the points the Maroons put on the board each game she plays.
Last season, Lake was an offensive machine, ranked second on the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. Lake made the University’s record books as her 369 points in the season put her ninth in line for the throne of most points scored in a season, currently held by Gretchen Gates in her 1985–86 season. Taylor’s consistently high scoring average through her career also puts her in the record books for a career scoring average of 11.6.
As a member of the team last season, I have witnessed Lake in action for a full season of practices and games. Lake is an unstoppable force that teammates and opponents shy away from defending. Under the basket, her drop step and power dribble to the hoop mean just one thing: She’s going to drop two and one. As a previous guard, I cannot fathom how she leans into the defense rather than shying away from it. In fact, it always seems as though the defensive presence inspires her to push harder and perform better. When asked what is going through her mind when she has larger girls on her back while trying to score, Lake claims “the toughness definitely stems from growing up with four brothers who are all now 6’4" and taller. You can imagine the athleticism I had to compete with from playing one-on-one to just about any backyard game you can think of. Because of that, I go into practices and games with the mindset of, ‘if I can score on my brothers, then I can, and should, score on anyone who guards me.’ Overall, toughness is something you can control, which is a huge factor in games when there are a lot of uncontrollables (things out of our hands) and I definitely pride myself on bringing that every time I step on the court.”
Finally, in total admiration, I asked her if we can have some of what she’s drinking. Expecting her to reply “protein shakes” or “the Gatorade Bobby preps,” I was surprised when she laughed and replied “lots and lots of chocolate milk!” Though unexpected, her answer lines up with many lines of research. Chocolate milk not only aids in post-exercise recovery but is also an excellent source of protein and carbohydrates. So, as I finish this article and head to the gym, you can be sure I’ll be stopping by Bartlett for a tall glass of post-Crown/pre-Mansueto elixir.