Walking on Air

Feb. 15, 2001

By DAVID DUNCH, Asst. Sports Editor
The Santa Clara

In the spirit of former Duke superstar Trajan Langdon and current Bronco freshman Kyle Bailey, the women's basketball team has it's own Alaskan import, junior Caroline Gruening. And like her male counterparts, she can make the nets sizzle.

The former walk-on from Juneau has been a major contributor for the first-place Broncos this season. Her 10.2 points per game is second on the team, as is her 70 assists, and she leads the team with 28 steals and a 38.8 shooting percentage from three-point range. "Caroline is a leader and a great student of the game," Head Coach Chris Denker said. "She has a big heart and a lot of confidence shooting the ball."

After a stellar high school career at Juneau-Douglas, which included a 1996 Alaska State Championship and three league titles, Greuning chose to attend Santa Clara because she was encouraged to walk on by former Head Coach Caren Horstmeyer.

"I wanted to play somewhere," Gruening said, "and I knew this was a pretty decent program. And with the academics here, I thought it would be a good fit."

She appeared in 11 games as a freshman, averaging less than one point, rebound and assist per game. Her hard work in practice and dedication later led to her ultimate reward: as a sophomore, Greuning was awarded a scholarship.

"I was really surprised when Caren told me before sophomore year," she said. "I was thrilled." That year, she appeared in every game, averaging about 10 minutes per game and just under three points per contest.

As a junior, though, there's been no stopping her.

"I knew there was a chance that she could start for us this year," Denker said. "She came in and made it clear right away that she was a starter. She's one of our best defenders, a good three-point shooter and is like a second point guard on the floor."

"I really wanted it," Gruening said about the starting assignment. "I worked really hard throughout the summer and playing against my teammates everyday was a big help. I did what ever it took."

And as the season has progressed, Greuning has exceeded every expectation.

"I really wanted to start, but if I didn't that would be OK. I just wanted to make some big contributions."

And those contributions go beyond just shooting threes and dishing out assists.

"With Caroline it's an intangible thing," Denker said. "Her work ethic is great - extra shooting, extra weights. Whatever it takes."

All the extra work has helped Gruening and the Broncos take over the top spot in the WCC. "At the beginning of the season we talked about winning the WCC regular season, winning the postseason tournament and advancing far into the NCAA's. Right now, we're feeling confident but we have to continue to take it one game at a time."

As for the future, this combined sciences major has plenty of options available to her.

"I've thought about going overseas to play and if given the opportunity would definitely consider it," she said. "But right now I plan on taking a year off and then going to Med School."

Whatever she eventually decides to do, rest assured that Greuning will outwork everyone else. It's the only way she knows how to do things.