Cal Poly Pomona women’s basketball player Lisha Elsenbach’s quiet determination and focus has added enormous depth to a team that struggled with a shallow bench in the early goings of the 2012-13 season.
Elsenbach’s role has greatly expanded as a sophomore. She averages 16 minutes a game this year compared to the eight minutes she averaged as a true freshman in the 2011-12 season.
While not tall, 5-foot-9 Elsenbach’s primary role is rebounding, using her size along with her intense focus to get stops on defense.
“One thing we really liked about Lisha in high school was that she was a really thick guard, which is what we needed,” said head coach Danelle Bishop.
The guard is averaging four points while grabbing three boards and dishing one assist a game off the bench, but she grabbed 11 points and eight boards in a weekend series against Sonoma and San Francisco State, perhaps showing off her increasing scoring acumen.
Elsenbach’s ability to drive to the basket sends her to the free throw line frequently. She is in the top five on the squad when it comes to free-throw attempts, despite being in the bottom five of the team when it comes to minutes played this year.
Her free throw shooting has slipped a bit from last year (.857 in 2011-12 to .618 in the current season), but it remains one of her greatest strengths and something she continues to work on.
“When you get to the free throw line you just try to relax, catch your breath for a second and think about how many times you have made free throws in the past,” Elsenbach said.
Elsenbach’s calm demeanor on and off the court masks her unbridled intensity. She made it clear that during basketball season she is all about two things: school and basketball.
“In high school, pretty much all of my time was spent on basketball,” Elsenbach said. “Watching the NBA, college basketball, whatever was on when I was not playing.”
She described her workout routine in high school as follows: She would go to school, come home and go to the park to shoot. Then she would go back to school to practice with her high school team, come back home and shoot some more. When it got dark, it was time to go home and do home work.
Rinse and repeat.
Often times, Elsenbach would play against her older brothers, or her older god-brothers, who were, and are, much bigger than she is.
“I would pretty much lose every time,” said Elsenbach. “I definitely think [playing against them] helped fuel my desire to win.”
Now, she is very confident she could take it to her older brothers if they were not too afraid to play her.
Elsenbach is anything but boisterous at first meeting, though the team describes her as a jokester.
“I remember when I first met Lisha [Elsenbach],” said Porter. “It probably would have been easier pulling teeth than trying to get a word out of her. But she really is hilarious, easily one of the three funniest people I have ever met.”
Elsenbach’s dry sense of humor and quick wit bring some levity to practice; but when she is on the court, it is all business.
“She is actually really funny,” said Bishop. “But she doesn’t demand attention from anyone, the whole team just listens.”
So when Elsenbach quietly grabbed her own offensive board while dragging two defenders with her against Sonoma State, the team responded going on an eight-point run including her two free throws to close out the half.
Like most of the Broncos on this year’s squad, the opportunity to be a part of a winning program played a significant role in Elsenbach’s decision to come to CPP.
“When I came on my first visit, I really liked the school and the coaches,” said Elsenbach. “They went to the Elite Eight that year and were a great team, so that definitely played a part in my decision.”
The strength of the team two years ago when Elsenbach was a senior in high school also factored in to her decision, along with the school’s academic reputation.
A Computer Information Sciences student, Elsenbach also takes after her older brother in the field she hopes to enter.
“I want to do computer networking and security,” she said.
In the mean time, Elsenbach continues to work on locking down the opponents’ offense.