February 08, 2006 -
Ashley Blanche found it hard to sleep Monday night.
That's to be expected when your senior season of college basketball hangs in the balance, when you're a few hours away from a second X-ray on your injured right arm and aren't sure if you've taken the court for the last time for the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns.
"Did I sleep? Not really," Blanche said before Tuesday's practice at Earl K. Long Gym. "I guess I got about two hours.
"This morning I was very nervous. I have five more games left, and it could all be over today."
Once she got the X-ray, though, Blanche was relieved to be told that she could return to action. The hairline fracture requires a protective sleeve and caution, but not more rest.
"I started feeling much better on Sunday," said Blanche, who was injured against Western Kentucky on Jan. 28 and missed last week's trip to North Texas and Denver.
"I have more motion in the arm now. I can extend it. It's still sore in one spot. But the doctor said it wasn't fractured, so I'm good to go."
As much as coach J. Kelley Hall wants his senior leader back in action, he remained cautious about Blanche's return.
"You can't just have her out for 12 days and then throw her out there against South Alabama on Thursday," Hall said. "But she's a senior and she wanted to try."
"It's been real weird without her," junior guard Jeanenne Colbert said. "I look up to her a lot, because I'm going to be the point guard next year when she graduates.
"It takes away the energy. She brings a lot of energy to the team and she's a lot of fun to play with. She's like the heart of the team."
Cajun assistant coach Meredith Hall could relate to Blanche's situation.
"My freshman year in college, I broke my foot," said Hall, a former VCU star and Washington Mystics WNBA player. "I played nine games on it, and iced it down after every game. I kept playing."
It won't be the first time Blanche has gritted her teeth and played with pain.
"Last year," she said, "I had stress fractures in both ankles and I played with that. Yeah, I've had pain before. I've had to deal with playing with pain.
"But that was just my feet. This (injury) affects my ball handling, my shooting and my passing - all the things you do as a point guard - and I'm right-handed."
It remains unsure how many minutes Blanche can go on Thursday. She lasted 45 minutes in Tuesday's practice before heading to the sideline to get the arm packed in ice.
"It's hard to tell," Blanche said. "When I was shooting earlier today, it felt like I hadn't shot the ball in years. So I had to do some more shooting. I was cautious extending the elbow, and that was before any contact."
Clearly, the Cajuns were glad to have Blanche back, whatever she can give.
Originally published February 8, 2006
Women's Basketball: Petrakova, Blanche both honored
March 03, 2005 -
Anna Petrakova didn't need long to decide which experience was more enjoyable.
Last year, Petrakova was named the Player of the Year in the Sun Belt Conference, but Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns were one-and-done in the conference tournament and finished the season 13-15.
This year, Petrakova is again a first-team All-Sun Belt selection, with the Player of the Year award going to Western Kentucky's Tiffany Porter-Talbert. But the Cajuns are 20-8 and enter this weekend's tournament action as the Western Division champions for the first time in school history.
"The Western championship is more fun," said Petrakova, who averaged 16.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and a Sun Belt-best 2.46 blocked shots per game.
She averaged 18.6 points per game of a year ago, but her time on the court has decreased thanks to greater depth on this year's squad.
"When you're chosen Player of the Year, people expect a lot out of you," Petrakova said. "That's when your teammates step up. I didn't do as much this year, and that's when they stepped up."
The team concept remains the focus for Petrakova, who admitted it was gratifying to be UL's first repeat all-conference performer since four-time honoree Kim Perrot (1987 Southland, 1988-90 American South).
"I'm honored and stunned to be named again," Petrakova said. "That comes from working hard as a team. I don't really focus on individual goals, so when I get an honor I think the whole team does. I'm grateful for that."
While Petrakova was a first-team choice on the 10-player list, point guard Ashley Blanche was on the next five as an honorable mention selection.
"It means a whole lot," said Blanche, who hit the game-winning shot in last Saturday's dramatic 64-63 win over Arkansas State to clinch a solo West title for UL. "I never thought about it, especially in my junior year.
"It's definitely an honor to be on that type of team, especially with where we stand."
Blanche had the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the Sun Belt at 2.12 (136 assists, 64 turnovers in 27 games played), substantially ahead of No. 2 Patrice Holmes (1.42).
The Cajuns picked up a third member of the Sun Belt honor roll when UL coach J. Kelley Hall was named co-Coach of the Year with Arkansas State's Brian Boyer.
Hall led the Cajuns to their first winning season in 17 years and just the second 20-win season in school history in addition to beating Arkansas State as the final step in winning the West.
Boyer's ASU team tied for second in the Eastern Division at 18-9, 11-3 with Middle Tennessee (19-8, 11-3), both one game behind Western Kentucky (19-8, 12-2).
"I am extremely proud of everything we have accomplished this season," Hall said. "We've worked hard all year long and nobody thought we could win a championship this soon. I think that says a lot about the players and our team.
"Anna and Ashley both deserved their All-Sun Belt honors. They have been vital to our success this season."
Joining Petrakova on the first team are Arkansas State's Ali Carter, Adrianne Davis and Rudy Sims, MT's Holmes (the Defensive Player of the Year), WKU's Porter-Talbert, Leslie Logsdon and Freshman of the Year Crystal Kelly, Arkansas-Little Rock's Jocelyn Love and Florida International's Milena Tomova.
South Alabama's JoAnna Williams was Newcomer of the Year.