Feb. 23—Julia Ewen said she doesn't feel cheated and doesn't feel sad, even though this will be the third time in five seasons that her basketball games will have been severely restricted.
Ewen and the Alvernia women's team have only six games on their schedule because of the pandemic, beginning Thursday night at Messiah. She's determined not to waste a second on the court.
"She practices so unbelievably hard every single day," Golden Wolves coach Rayne Reber said, "and is a role model for the rest of the girls. She shows them what hard work really is.
"She just has a lot of heart. Because of that and how hard she goes, she really does inspire the rest of the group to work as hard."
Ewen, a 5-8 senior from Massapequa, N.Y., is Alvernia's bedrock, someone who her teammates admire and respect. She's overcome two serious knee injuries, the first wiping out her senior season in high school and the second limiting her to 10 games two years ago.
She came back last season and helped the Wolves win nine games, their most in seven years. Wearing a knee brace, she started all 25 games, averaged 10.7 rebounds (fourth in the MAC Commonwealth) and 1.7 steals (first on the team).
"She (Reber) had very high expectations for us," Ewen said. "Adjusting to that was a little intimidating for all of us, but I think we made the transition very quickly. I was very excited to have a turn in the program and get a couple more wins."
Much of the improvement was thanks to Ewen. She had four double-doubles and 16 games with at least 10 rebounds, including 22 against Hood. Her attitude was contagious.
"Some players who injure their knees are nervous or scared to go as hard as they can," Reber said. "Not for one second did Julia ever play that way. She lays her body on the line. She's not afraid to dive on the ground or bang with the tallest centers in the conference."
As a senior at Our Lady of Mercy High School, Ewen tore the ACL and meniscus in her right knee in the final preseason scrimmage. As an Alvernia sophomore, she tore her meniscus again in November 2018.
It was during that time, when she was forced to sit for more than two months, that she emerged as a team leader.
"It's very eye-opening because all you want to do is play and get on the court," Ewen said. "I couldn't lead by example. I had to lead more verbally and be there to support my teammates."
It's no wonder then that she's been voted a team captain last season and this season, a season that was in doubt until the Middle Atlantic Conference announced basketball teams would play truncated schedules.
"I was very nervous over the summer that we wouldn't have this opportunity," Ewen said. "I'm excited that the MAC was able to figure out something for us."
Alvernia's six scheduled games could be the final ones of Ewen's basketball career. She's trying to appreciate every moment.
"Her work ethic is second to none," Reber said. "She's the definition of what we want Alvernia women's basketball to be known for. We want to be known for our hard work, our fight, our grit and to just never give up.
"Julia's been that inspiration to all of us. We want to follow her lead."