Cardinal Stritch sophomore forward Cecelia Gozdowski is leading the Toledo Area Athletic Conference in rebounding, and it’s not by accident.
“She’s one of our hardest workers,” Cardinals coach Terry Murnen said of Gozdowski, who saw limited varsity action last season. “She got herself in tremendous physical shape. She had trouble going up and down the floor last year, but she’s lost about 15 pounds. She worked with a personal trainer and did all the things she needed to do. She runs the floor very well and she plays hard all the time, and she has a nose for the ball.”
Through 15 games the 5-foot-7 Gozdowski is averaging 11.1 points and a conference-leading 10.5 rebounds a game for the Cardinals (8-7, 6-4 TAAC). Gozdowski, who is Stritch’s tallest player, went to personal trainer Todd Baden over the summer in order to get in better shape for her sophomore season.
|Cardinal Stritch Catholic sophomore
forward Cecelia Gozdowski shoots
over a Toledo Christian defender.
Abby Mass drives around a defender.
Baden had Gozdowski doing weight training and sprints three times a week, while at the same time getting her to wolf down protein shakes and putting her on a gluten-free diet.
“It was exciting to be able to work with someone to help me with my rebounding,” Gozdowski said. “I can jump higher and run faster. I lost 20 pounds from the beginning of the summer to the end of the summer. I didn’t like it at first. Once I started getting into it, I started pushing myself. I noticed during summer basketball I was getting faster and was able to last longer and I could get into it.”
Gozdowski said her motivation was simple: she just wanted to get better.
“I enjoy basketball,” she said. “Mr. Baden motivated me to keep going. I just wanted to get better at basketball because I wanted to be as good as I could be. I feel I’m getting closer to my goal each day.”
Gozdowski, who had a career-high 22 rebounds in an overtime win at Gibsonburg a few weeks ago, praised her teammates for her TAAC-leading rebounding average.
“I like it when the team shines,” she said. “It’s my job on the team, getting the rebounds, but I don’t want to shine without my team. I don’t care about my stats, I just want my team to shine and not worry about one individual person. I don’t like being in the spotlight. It’s not an individual sport. I couldn’t do it without the team.”
One Stritch teammate who has shined this season is 5-6 senior guard Abby Mass, whose 13.9 scoring average ranks third in the TAAC. A first-team all-conference pick last season, Mass is also averaging three assists and two steals a game.
“She’s our scorer,” Murnen said of his co-captain. “We’ve got to have her get touches. I don’t think she’s shooting the ball as well this year as last year, but she has a knack for getting to the foul line. She’s an 85- to 87-percent shooter. Sometimes I wish she would take a jump shot other than taking the ball to the hole, but she is comfortable doing that.”
Mass got to be the hero last week against visiting Ottawa Hills, when she made a free throw with 1.5 seconds left to give the Cardinals a 52-51 win over the Green Bears. Stritch, which trailed by seven points with two minutes left, lost to the Bears by eight points in their first meeting.
“We took better care of the basketball this time,” Murnen said. “We start two freshmen, a sophomore, a junior and a senior, and at times we make young mistakes. When we play hard, we’re pretty good. We played a lot harder for four quarters this time.”
In the second meeting, the Cardinals forced an Ottawa Hills turnover with six seconds left. Stritch inbounded the ball looking to get the ball to Mass, who went inside and drew a two-shot foul.
“She missed the first one, my 87-percent foul shooter,” Murnen said. “I’m having a heart attack. She buried the second one. I was anticipating her making the first one and I was going to have her miss the second one.”
Mass said she was determined to draw a foul and get to the line on the last possession.
“I’m fairly good at shooting foul shots,” she said. “I was surprised I missed the first one. I was mad, but I knew I was going to make the second one. This is what I’ve been waiting for as long as I’ve been playing. Coach was freaking out, but I knew I had it. I just have the confidence I can make it.”
Mass said she was known more for dishing out assists as a freshman and sophomore, before transferring to Stritch from Tiffin Calvert prior to last season.
“Junior year I played here and got to know my teammates, and I knew someone had to score,” Mass said. “Last year I really blossomed in scoring. This year I think we work well together. We’re pretty close - one of the freshmen is one of my best friends - and I think that kind of translates on the court.”