Michael Arias Mora
Junior Jirah Ards has been sidelined again, following an ankle injury during the 2019 season that caused her to receive a medical redshirt.
After playing in only eight games in the 2018-2019 season due to a nagging ankle injury, second-year guard Ards was forced to redshirt. Watching from the bench the rest of the season, Ards witnessed her Florida Southern Mocs teammates win the Sunshine State Conference regular season and tournament championships, while also setting a school record for wins with a 30-4 record.
Now entering the 2019-20 season, Ards was healthy and ready to contribute to a team that suddenly found itself very young, with only two seniors and seven new players. During practice early in the preseason, Ards went down in agonizing pain, and an MRI after afterwards confirmed that Ards had a torn ACL.
It was just another unfortunate incident that will make it back-to-back years that the talented guard from Alabama will have to watch from the bench, possibly applying for another redshirt.
“I was in shock, and the reality of it hadn’t really hit,” Ards said. “We didn’t know exactly what happened [right away], but I was disappointed because I [knew] I would be out for some time. It’s definitely not easy sitting on the sidelines.”
On Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 the Mocs played their first two home games of the year. Florida Southern, along with conference rival Saint Leo, played the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers and Lee Flames from the Gulf South Conference in the annual GSC-SSC Challenge.
It was a tale of two games, for the host Mocs, as in the opener against Alabama-Huntsville they could do no wrong. After a 9-8 start to the game, Florida Southern went on a 12-1 to end the first quarter and had a 21-9 lead.
The Mocs then went on to increase their lead in the second quarter, going on another big run to lead 42-27 at halftime. That trend continued during the second half as the Mocs went on to dominate the Chargers. They caught fire from long range in the fourth quarter, hitting 8-11 threes and won by a final score of 93-50 in a game where they never trailed.
The exact opposite happened the following day against Lee, who is ranked #14 overall in the country. Lee jumped out to an early 6-0 lead and used suffocating defense to build a lead on the home team Mocs.
A low scoring quarter had the Flames up 15- 8 after the first quarter. It remained low scoring throughout the second and was a 27-19 game at the half. Lee started to pull away in the third quarter as turnovers and missed shots hurt the Mocs. Florida Southern was able to make a late run in the fourth quarter but it was too little too late and Lee walked away with the 55-43 win.
Witnessing both games courtside, Ards had plenty of belief in her team’s outlook for the season.
“I know that we can go as far as we want this year, we just have to be consistent with how we play every game,” Ards said. “I know the plays and everything so if I see something on the sideline that they aren’t seeing in the game I can talk to them about it.”
Ards is not sure what the next step is for her when she is healthy again. However, her confidence in her team’s ability to defend their conference title this season is undeniable.
More challenges will come for this young Mocs team, such as matchups against the Bentley Falcons, lead by future Hall of Fame coach Barbara Stevens, and the Drury Lady Panthers, the number one ranked team in the country one year ago.