Travis Dickerson
Mercury Staff

Initial ASC, NCAA rankings place women's team as most likely to take regional tournament title

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.”