By Mike Lowe, Portland Press Herald Staff Writer
Portland, Maine - When Megan Grondin played basketball at Greely High, she became very accustomed to winning. The Rangers were perennial contenders in the Western Maine Conference.
Then, a year ago, came her freshman season at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. The Cougars had seven freshmen playing regularly and, as you might expect, didn't fare very well. They were 9-17.
But this year is much different. And Grondin, now a sophomore, is at the forefront of Clark's revival.
The Cougars are 7-2 and Grondin is among the team leaders, statistically and emotionally.
"We have had a few very unique players in our program," said Pat Glispin, in her 28th season as head coach. "She's one of them. She has been fabulous."
Grondin is averaging 11 points and 3.3 rebounds for the Cougars. She also has 14 assists, four steals and -- get this -- 12 blocked shots.
Grondin is listed as a 5-foot-8 forward. But, said Glispin, she plays much bigger. She plays the post -- "She's probably our strongest post player," said Glispin -- but can really play anywhere on the court. She has exceptional quickness, court sense and a strong competitive nature.
Proof of that is her 12 blocked shots.
"That's a part of the competitor that she is," said Glispin. "She's not going to let people score easily."
Grondin laughs when asked about the blocked shots, but adds that she wanted to improve in that area this year.
"My biggest issue has always been fouling and I guess that comes from trying to block shots," she said. "I don't know if I'm timing it right or something, but that's one stat area I wanted to improve on. I didn't think I would so it comes as a surprise."
But the Cougars' success is no surprise to Grondin.
After last year, she and her classmates were determined to turn the program around. And they learned some valuable lessons from all those losses.
"It was not a good feeling and, truthfully, I was shaken by it," said Grondin. "But we really grew as a team."
The losses bonded them as well.
"We're just a lot closer, especially the girls in my grade," said Grondin. "In high school the starting five were all my best friends. Now we're all best friends here. We have a great chemistry. It took a year or so but I think we're back on track."
Grondin, a management major, had a strong freshman season, averaging 8.9 points and 3.5 rebounds. She knew she had to become even better. So she spent her summer working out and playing basketball. Her improvement was obvious to Glispin at the start of the school year.
"I think she left school last year, in my view, committed to becoming one of the people who turned this program back around," said Glispin.
Grondin knows she has to keep getting better. The Cougars play in the difficult New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference, where every game is evenly contested.
"I'm just trying to become a well-rounded player on the court," she said. "I don't want to just score points. I want to go in and block some shots, make some passes to my teammates. I'm just focused on helping the team more than anything else."