Growing up, Lizzy Groetsch spent hours in the gym watching her older brothers train with her dad, a former college basketball player at Westminster College. Eventually, she grew tired of sitting idly by and began working out with her family on the court.
“I definitely think having two older brothers makes you a little bit tougher and helps you with some of the aggressiveness required in basketball,” Groetsch said. “My dad would be putting all of us through workouts ever since I was really young. I was just always in the gym watching my brothers play. Then I started to play.”
The 5-foot-10 guard has put this aggressiveness on display so far this year. In her first year a part of Penn's (5-3) starting lineup, Groetsch has already set new game highs in points and rebounds, averaging 8.8 points and six rebounds per game. The junior prides herself on her rebounding ability and showing effort around the rim after every shot.
While rebounding is her strong suit — Groetsch ranks third among the Quakers in rebounds per game — her role extends beyond the boards. On a game-to-game basis, Groetsch can be a leader of the scoring attack, a defensive stalwart, or a prolific passer — depending on what is needed of her. With multiple games scoring in the double figures, two three-steal performances, and several multi-assist outings, Groetsch has stuffed the stat sheet with her versatility.
“I just go into every game with the same mentality of playing as hard as possible and kind of just let the game come to me, and some days that'll involve putting the ball in the basket more than others,” Groetsch said. “But I know energy, defense, and just committing to rebounding is something I can do every day.”
Constantly putting in effort may sound like a stressor for many players, but for Groetsch, it’s all she’s ever known. From the time she played against her brothers, to her time in the Red and Blue, Groetsch has always had to be the hardest worker on the floor to succeed.
However, it took her two years to truly earn her stripes and enter the starting lineup. After a pretty strong freshman campaign, with one start out of 22 game appearances, Groetsch’s role was considerably smaller in her second year. With challenges in both gaining playing time and producing on the court, it would have been easy to give up, but Groetsch continued to look to her role models and emulate them entering 2023.
“From a young age, I always knew I wanted to play basketball at the best academic school possible,” Groestch said. “I felt like I got to know the coaches well, so I knew it was a great basketball program. Combining that with the academics, I'm from Pittsburgh, so I thought the location gets the closest Ivy League to me.
“[Watching the upperclassmen], I really saw how good basketball is supposed to be played and what a good teammate looks like,” Groetsch added. “So I think I've just tried to step up and kind of fill that leadership position that I was looking up to when I was an underclassman.”
Groetsch is on track to almost triple her career minutes by the end of this season, and has already surpassed her career highs in points and rebounds in a season she set as a freshman. All of this came with Groetsch’s jump from a bench player to an everyday starter, for which she once again credits her mentors and teammates.
From here on out, Groetsch looks forward to continuing her progression and strengthening her performance on the court even further. After a strong California road trip over Thanksgiving break, where the Quakers improved to 4-2 and Groetsch scored 13 and 10 points in games against Chapman and UC San Diego respectively, Penn still has a month of non-conference play to go before facing Ivy opponents.
“We have a lot in between now and [the start of conference play]. So I can't say that we've really been focusing on that, but we know we need to improve,” Groetsch said. “I just want to get better every day, like improve 1% every day and contribute whatever that looks like, contribute as much as I can to the team.”
Groetsch’s mentality, and that of the rest of the team, is to not get ahead of themselves and focus on what’s in front of them first. Her devotion to improvement is starting to show up in the stat sheet, but she still keeps the same mindset — beat whoever is in front of her.
“The next game is always the game I'm most looking forward to, honestly.”