VALPARAISO | It would’ve been easy for Jessica Carr to just shut everything down and take a year away from basketball. The love the Valparaiso junior has for her teammates made that impossible.
After suffering a significant hand injury in a car accident during the preseason, Carr chose a strenuous rehabilitation process instead of a season on the sidelines.
While the Crusaders (5-24) haven’t had the season that Carr envisioned, the junior has no regrets racing to return to the floor as No. 9 Valparaiso prepares for Monday night’s Horizon League tournament opener against No. 8 Detroit.
“(Redshirting) was something that I definitely thought about doing,” Carr said. “I could’ve used another year academically and to make sure that I got back to my best, but the love for my teammates, they expect me out there. We’re a very close team this season and they’re why I came back.”
Carr missed the first 12 games of the season and then experienced seven straight losses after she finally took the floor against Western Michigan on Dec. 29. The point guard helped lead Valparaiso to a win over the Titans on Jan. 23 when she tied for third in school history with seven steals in a game.
“We need Jessica out there,” Valparaiso coach Tracey Dorow said. “She’s our leader and she’s a constant communicator, but we weren’t going to play her if it wasn’t in her best interests as well as ours.”
Carr capped off the regular season with 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds in Saturday’s loss to Wright State, her third double-digit scoring contest in the last five games. Carr set a new career high with 16 points in an 84-70 win over Oakland on Feb. 22 and then established reset the career high with 21 points against Detroit four days later. As Carr has begun to get into proper basketball form, the Crusaders have continued to improve as well.
“Coach (Dorow) said getting back into shape would be rough and she was right,” Carr said. “I’ve just concentrated on playing my game and everything has really started to come together. We’ve gotten so much better as the season has gone on.”
Valparaiso hopes to make up for blowing a 17-point first-half lead at Calihan Hall earlier this season when the Crusaders take on Detroit this evening. The winner will travel to Green Bay to take on the regular-season champions on Wednesday night. Carr is confident the Crusaders can come out of Monday night with a victory.
“We can’t let leads go once we get them,” Carr said. “We’re focused on some revenge on Monday. We owe them one after what happened in the last game. We can’t dwell on the mistakes we made in the past, we’ve got to look forward and I think we can come away from this with a win.”