The women’s basketball team is looking to rebound it it’s quest to claim the ASC title after it’s season ended abruptly in last year’s conference semifinals.
The team, which went 21-6 last year, is returning nine players including three starters from last years squad. The ASC preseason poll picked the Comets to finish second in the conference this year.
Although the team has garnered much preseason acclaim, it will be missing a crucial piece from last year’s squad. Forward Morgan Kilgore, who graduated in the spring, made almost a quarter of the team’s points. She was an honorable mention All-American and the ASC women’s basketball player of the year.
“I think if you go into a season asking your new people or returners to replace her, you’re in trouble,” head coach Polly Thomason said. “You don’t want them to have that pressure going into the year.”
She said she wants the players on the current roster to play toward their strengths rather than emulate what Kilgore did.
Out of the members of the returning senior class, two have been singled out as players to watch by the conference. Point guard Madi Hess, who transferred last year from Concordia, averaged 6.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
Hess said one of her biggest roles this year will be getting the ball to players who can score and understanding the offense better.
“My focus is really studying the offense and understanding when (Thomason) is calling this play, this is who she’s wanting to score,” Hess said.
Guard Amber Brown, who also was listed on the conference’s preseason watch list, averaged 8.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. She had 1.3 steals per game and was named to the conference’s All-Defensive Team.
She said the team has to work on their communication and teamwork in order for it to be successful.
“We have three new starters, so it’s not like a completely new team, but it’s pretty new,” Brown said. “We still have chemistry to build …Right now, we’re just trying to build a family, because that’s what we saw lacking last year.”
There’s a special emphasis on playing a team style of basketball rather than relying on the talent of certain individuals, Brown said. Any one of the seniors on the team could go off for 20 points at any given time, she said.
Both Hess and Brown have been named as captains for the upcoming season. Brown said even though Thomason chose them to be leaders for the team, she doesn’t feel pressure from that responsibility.
“The pressure comes from reaching our goals together,” she said. “There’s pressure to beat the big teams. There’s pressure to know that there’s always a target on our back because we’re having successful seasons … we don’t have time to think about pressure.”
Part of that pressure will come from UT Tyler, who has been picked to win the conference by the preseason poll. Last year, the Patriots were crowned as conference champs and advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.
Other opponents who may pose a challenge for the Comets include Mary Hardin-Baylor, who ended UTD’s season last year in the conference semifinals, and Howard-Payne, who is predicted to finish fourth in the conference.
“I think this will be the toughest year in our conference,” Thomason said. “I think, from top to bottom, there’s nobody that we’re going to be able to overlook.”
The one thing that will make UTD different from the other members of the conference will be the reliance of teammates on oBne another, Hess said.
“All these teams have the same goal that we’re having; what’s going to separate us is us sticking together as a team and not doing everything individually,” she said. “There’s not one person on our team that can go out and just win the game. It takes all five of us.”