Mainz makes the transition from soccer to basketball

Nathan Miller

The new NBA regulation ball may look similar to a soccer ball, but basketball and soccer are still polar opposites.

For an athlete to jump from the soccer field to the court is going to take some time to transition, but Ron McHenry, Lady Blues head coach, hopes it won’t take too long.

While the rest of the Lady Blues were learning the offense and preparing for the first game three weeks prior to the start of the season, Jessica Mainz, sophomore guard, was still playing soccer with Tim Collins and the Lady Blues soccer team. Nonetheless, right after the soccer team was eliminated in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals, Mainz was called upon to back up Jessica Aebi, senior point guard, immediately.

“This year we have actually asked her to play point guard because of our situation with injuries at the [position,]” said McHenry. “So that may be a little bit more different than last year for her, when she was playing the two and the three and had a little bit more time to catch on. But this year she is put into the fire a little bit more quickly, playing point right behind Jessica Aebi.”

Mainz played in 22 games last year and averaged just 2.5 points per game. But Mainz says it helps to know the offense already and it will just take some time.

“It’s been pretty hard, but I’m starting to get back in the swing of things,” said Mainz. “I already knew the offense from last year, but it still takes a little bit of refreshing.”

If the need to transition quickly wasn’t already high enough, it raised even higher as Karla Tailele, junior guard who shares time with Mainz at the point, has missed the past three games with an injury. Regardless, Mainz has been able to outdo last year’s performance by already averaging 4 points per game.

“Jess is a great athlete,” said McHenry. “Just look at her soccer career, but she is also a very good basketball player. With her conditioning, there is no problem because she got all of that with soccer. Her touch of the ball may take her a while to get back. She is a very smart kid, and one of the better athletes you will ever see.”

Mainz was recently named to the 2006 NCAA Division II National Soccer Coaches Association/Adidas All-Central Regional first team. Mainz led the MIAA champion Lady Blues with 13 goals on the year.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” said Mainz. “I’m just very proud of our team. Just overall the season was awesome.”

Now Lady Blues basketball fans are hoping she will win some awards on the court. Particularly because of her size and athletic ability, many are hoping she is the perfect replacement for MIAA Defensive Player of the Year April Roadhouse.

“With the body and athletic ability, Jess is about as close as I have seen to another Roadhouse because of her size,” said McHenry. “They’re both long, lengthy point guards. They both glide very well. They are both defensive minded. They both don’t shoot a lot.”

Despite the similarities, McHenry said there are quite a few differences, and it is still very early in Mainz’ career to tell.

“April was around the game more, and by the time her junior/senior year rolled around, she expressed a lot of leadership,” said McHenry. “Jess is just a sophomore, plus just coming out of soccer, it is hard for her to lead right now. I think when you see her get more comfortable throughout the season with her responsibilities, she could fill some of that leadership role as well.

“As far as replacing April and looking just like her, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I do think she has some of the same qualities and maybe some different qualities that are better than April’s. Because of her size and athletic ability, I’m sure people will try to compare her to April.”