Van Kleunen fills void after Davenport’s injury

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Van Kleunen fills void after Davenport’s injury

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

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When senior forward Erika Davenport went down with a lower body injury against Butler Feb. 22, Marquette needed another post presence.

Redshirt sophomore Lauren Van Kleunen has been that answer for MU.

“(Van Kleunen) had a lot of enthusiasm, (and) she made tough plays,” head coach Carolyn Kieger said after the team’s game against Butler. “She had four blocks on (forward Tori) Schickel. She played personnel really well, followed the game plan and played with a lot of confidence.”

Van Kleunen finished the Butler game with a double-double. She had 10 points, 12 rebounds and four crucial blocks on Schickel, who is currently the Bulldogs’ 12th all-time scorer. Van Kleunen’s contributions kept the team within striking distance against Butler, although the Bulldogs still won.

With Davenport officially out for the rest of the season, Van Kleunen will need more performances of this caliber as the year progresses.

Even though she will be the one stepping directly into Davenport’s role, Van Kleunen said she knows it will require the entire team to fill the hole Davenport left, not just her.

“Everyone needs to step up, including myself, just because of what (Davenport) brought to the floor,” Van Kleunen said. “We’ve got to be able to rise up. Everyone as a collective unit is going to, not just me.”

Van Kleunen said going up against Davenport in practice every day, before she got injured, has made her a significantly better player.

“She’s one of the best post (players) in the nation,” Van Kleunen said. “Her tenacity to rebound, to post up, to rim run, everything she does is always at 100 percent. She’s been a huge help.”

As one of the first players off the bench for the Golden Eagles, Van Kleunen has provided Marquette with a variety of skills.

“If it’s bringing the energy, I’ll bring the energy. If it’s (to) get rebounds, I’ll get rebounds,” Van Kleunen said. “Whatever our team needs me to do that night, I’ll be willing to do that.”

Kieger said she recognizes how instrumental Van Kleunen’s contributions are to the team.

“(Van Kleunen) is a competitor. She’s a leader,” Kieger said. “She does all the little things that you want her to do.”

As a 6-foot-2 guard-forward hybrid, Van Kleunen provides Marquette with versatility, intelligence and length on both ends of the floor.

On the offensive side, she has the ability to venture out to the 3-point line or to post up with her back to the basket.

“It helps a lot with spacing. The guards are able to penetrate because teams can’t necessarily pack the paint,” Van Kleunen said. “They have to play us out on the arc because we have hot shooters that can shoot the ball and be able to post up.”

Meanwhile, on defense, Van Kleunen said she tries to use her length and knowledge of the game to combat opposition.

“Instead of using my speed, I try to outsmart my opponents as a defender,” Van Kleunen said. “If they can get by me with my length, I usually can block their shot or just get a tip (and) alter their shot in any way possible, just by jumping up or being that threat in the paint.”

Kieger and Van Kleunen both said the redshirt sophomore brings energy every time she steps onto the floor.

“I’m pretty naturally energetic as a person,” Van Kleunen said. “I love playing basketball. I love playing the game, so any chance I have to get out there is a privilege.”

“She’s phenomenal. She’s a spark,” Kieger said. “We need her to do that. If she can keep playing that way, great things are going to happen for her.”

Moving forward, Van Kleunen said the rest of the team needs to worry about maintaining the same mindset as it progresses into the postseason.

“(Kieger) always talks about never getting sick of winning and that speaks volumes to us,” Van Kleunen said. “We just want to cherish these moments with each other, but we also want to make big strides that Marquette has never made before.”

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