ALLENDALE - Ellie Droste was forced into a starting role as a Grand Valley State freshman when a couple of teammates were quarantined last season.
It was a huge adjustment and came with plenty of growing pains. But it gave her a first-hand look at the game speed of the best players in Division II, and how attack them from the point, and how to defend them.
Now in her second year, Droste is starting again as a redshirt freshman, but this season, it is because she has quickly grown into the role, in part because of how she performed in last year's trial by fire.
"I think it helped a lot," said Droste, a Pewamo-Westphalia graduate. "Working a lot this summer together helped our whole team. My class especially, we put in a ton of work this summer to try to get better."
That work built success, which in turn, built confidence, which is pivotal for someone who is the starting point guard on one of the top Division II teams in the country.
"Her confidence level has grown," GVSU coach Mike Williams said. "We talked about her becoming a three-level scorer, and I think she is getting to that point. She can shoot with a mid-range game, and gets to the rim, left or right."
That is tough to stop, but one of Droste's biggest improvements has been defensively.
"She is growing as a defender and is understanding what it takes to guard good players," Williams said. "She has gotten that in a speedy process."
She was key in four shot-clock violations against Saginaw Valley State in the GLIAC opener, and has been a defensive force for the Lakers all season.
"It is a huge deal to play 30 seconds of defense and not let them get a shot off," Droste said. "Those are the stops we need to get on defense, and continue to get all season."
This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Ellie Droste plays way into GVSU starting lineup by making most of experience