As Gena Grundhoffer and three of her teammates finished a run before their first basketball workout of the summer, they couldn’t help but notice suspicious looks from passersby.
They felt their feet slide against the sand-covered basketball court as the deflated ball they just purchased trickled down the court. Within 10 minutes, they realized they should have listened to their coach and taken time off from basketball.
“People in Prague don’t really work out, so when we would go on runs, we would always get weird looks from people,” junior guard Camryn Buhr said.
Grundhoffer, a junior on the women’s basketball team and a three-year starting forward, had the opportunity to participate in the Lehigh in Prague study abroad program with Buhr and two other teammates. The program consisted of a full-time internship as well as a weekly class.
Grundhoffer’s experience in Prague wasn’t the first time she had to learn a balancing act.
Before arriving on Lehigh’s campus in 2016, Grundhoffer was already an accomplished student-athlete. Born in Minnesota, she later moved to Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, where she would develop a love for sports.
Grundhoffer and her younger brother and sister were all three-sport athletes in high school. She still remains proud of this.
“I really enjoyed being able to play three sports in high school,” Grundhoffer said. “I was able to get my mind off of basketball and have a fun, extra thing to do in the off-season.”
Grundhoffer excelled in basketball, volleyball and soccer in high school, but it was her play on the basketball court that attracted interest from Division I programs. Grundhoffer finished her high school career as a two-time state champion, which included a state tournament MVP award after a record scoring performance in a tournament game. Still, she remained uncertain of her next step.
“I was getting recruited to a lot of schools in the Midwest, but nothing really stood out to me,” Grundhoffer said. “I wanted to get away from the Midwest and get a breath of fresh air somewhere else. I couldn’t get the best of both worlds where I could play basketball while also going to a really good school.”
When Grundhoffer received her first recruitment letter from Lehigh, it seemed to check all of her boxes. She described a great first impression of Lehigh, highlighted by a very welcoming team and supportive coaching staff.
After losing a total of just 12 games over her entire high school career, Grundhoffer stepped into a program that featured three freshman starters en route to a 10-20 overall record in her freshman season. Yet, she persevered.
“The losing was hard for me, but I had such a great class with me who all went through that season together and grew together through that,” Grundhoffer said.
With a year of experience and a more established chemistry, the Mountain Hawks improved their record to 15-15 in Grundhoffer’s sophomore season. Like the team as a whole, Grundhoffer improved in points and field goal percentage, while continuing her stellar work in the classroom with her second consecutive Patriot League Academic Honor Roll selection.
Following the conclusion of her sophomore year, Grundhoffer and three teammates took the opportunity to study abroad.
“A lot of Division I programs don’t allow their athletes to go abroad, but our coach was so generous and just wanted us to go learn and travel while not worrying about basketball,” Grundhoffer said.
The four members of the women’s basketball team were able to strengthen their already-close relationships and form bonds they believe will carry forever.
“We were already really good friends,” Grundhoffer said. “But after the trip we had so many stories and experiences together that we still talk about today and it definitely made us a lot closer.”
It is the team’s united mentality that gives it a chance to be special.
“We’ve made it our emphasis this season to have fun when we play and (to share) the ball,” junior forward Cameryn Benz said. “We’ve had players in the past that made it hard for us to do, but this year we’ve played for the team, and not just for individuals.”
Grundhoffer will step into a leadership role during her third season.
“Her energy and toughness is really amazing and it spreads throughout the entire team,” Benz said. “But for me, personally, I like having her on the court because she adds a looseness to the game that calms me down and keeps me from getting stressed.”