Pre-season polls bring hope for basketball

The women's basketball team advanced to the ASC semifinals last season. Photo by Amina Hussain | Mercury Staff.

The women’s basketball team holds a strong position after initial polls from the American Southwest Conference and National Collegiate Athletic Association ranked the team as the most likely to win the regional tournament.

In the 2017-2018 season, the team qualified for the semifinals of the ASC Tournament. Its victories last season allowed it to participate in the NCAA DIII national tournament, where it won the ASC East Division title and made it to the second round. Individual players also received acclaim, with junior guard Victoria Pena named ASC East Player of the Year and sophomore guard Raenett Hughes receiving the ASC East Freshman of the Year award. The team this year is once again led by head coach Polly Thomason, who received ASC’s East Division Coach of the Year honor for the last season. Thomason said the team kept working after the last season ended in February in preparation for this coming season.

“The team has been working hard over the summer trying to get ready,” Thomason said, “I think they’re entering this season with a stronger bond and a greater energy than last.”

The Comets beat East Texas Baptist, who won against the team last year in the tournament, by six points in the poll. National news site D3hoops placed the team at No. 25 in the entire division. This season is different for the team, as it is primarily composed of veteran players. Hughes, who last season had a 9.4 point and 5.3 rebound average per game, said it built up a strong unity that motivated them to keep on top of their game.

“The chemistry has gotten a lot stronger other,” Hughes said. “Those of us who hung around Dallas during the summer would come in and shoot together in the gym.”

The team started practices in mid-October, focusing on both defensive and offensive play. One area of difficulty the team had last season was filling into the post position, which is a player’s ability to keep their back to the goal and receive and pass the ball. Pena, who had a 15.4 point and 5.3 rebound average per game, said their technique has improved dramatically. 

“We have new freshmen who are still learning that area,” Pena said. “Then our returning players who have kept up in practices over the summer come in and show them that they really know how to make that position work.”

The team will start the regular season with a game against Washington-St. Louis on Nov. 16. Thomason said that the team sill has a lot of things to work on — mostly in defense — but that she’s confident the team can do it.  

“They’re determined and focused — they want to get after it and finish the season out differently this year,” Thomason said. “It’s pretty exciting that we have a great core returning, so this year it’s all about fine-tuning it.”

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