Shenandoah Women's Season Preview
WINCHESTER, Va. - Shenandoah University's women's hoops 2010-11 season is shaping to be one of the most interesting campaigns in recent memory. As the first game rapidly approaches, head coach Michelle Guyant-Holloway will be looking to lead her team to its most successful season in her five years at the helm of the Hornets.
"I am confident about this upcoming season," Guyant-Holloway said. "We are making more and more progress everyday, in plays and also growing as a team. Some progress more noticeable that others, but the team is definitely coming together strong.
"We are always striving to improve on a day to day basis. We hope that the work we put in and the improvement we make helps us get to the conference championship."
The win over UMW was particularly notable in that it was the first SU win over a ranked opponent of the Guyant-Holloway era.
"Some of our biggest strengths on the court are aggressiveness, competitiveness and capable scorers," Guyant-Holloway stated. "This should give us more opportunity to improve our record from the previous year. Also, our rebounding has improved which will definitely give us more chance to put the ball in the net."
Gone from the paint is three-time All-USA South honoree Alexis Hargbol '10, but SU welcomes in sophomore transfer Haley Smith as well as freshmen Arianna Beard and Sara Van Ryt to go along with sophomore Nicole Gilbertson. These four women average 6'1" and are all capable of dominating on the glass.
Beard, a Woodbridge, Va. native, is excited about her first collegiate season. "As long as we have team respect and strive to do better than ever before, we should be fine."
In addition, Guyant-Holloway will look to senior Sierra Edwards at the wing. Edwards has been a regular on the court for all three seasons of her career and is one of the best athletes in the program.
She averaged 8.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in just over 20 minutes of action per outing last season.
In the backcourt, Guyant-Holloway will have to replace two-time All-USA South honoree and 1000-point scorer Katherine Flint, but welcomes back seniors Crystal Williams, Jen Moxley and Stephanie Holton and juniors Ashleigh Council, Abby Gallagher and Mandy Johnston.
Junior Kerby Hatter returns as a swing player - she is capable of playing the point, shooting guard or small forward.
Johnston earned All-USA South honors as a freshman and she and Gallagher have impressed the coaching staff with their commitment to condititioning this off-season.
"Mandy and Abby have improved their quickness so much," Guyant-Holloway observed. "This is going to help them create their own shots.
"Katherine was so good at finding them, but with a new point guard this year, they have to step up and be ready to take more responsibility. Their off-season work is going to help them realize that goal."
Williams transferred into SU from Division II Wheeling (W. Va.) Jesuit prior to the start of the 2009-10 season and started 22 of 25 games with 122 points scored and 51 assists.
This is the largest team in her five seasons and brings a new set of challenges to the year.
"We need to improve on our communication, but this should take care of itself as we move through the season. I think the depth will also help us with our defensive intensity - players know that playing time is going to be at a premium."
The schedule begins on Tuesday, November 16 when the Hornets take on the Lynchburg Hornets in a 7 p.m. non-conference contest. Following this battle against a future ODAC opponent, SU will play just three more non-conference games before hosting defending USA South champion Christopher Newport on December 1.
The league contest against the Captains is one of three that Shenandoah will play in the first semester.
"A 10-team league means we have to play in the first semester," Guyant-Holloway said. "I think it is important to get off to a fast start so we aren't playing catch-up after the holidays.
"I think the Swarthmore Tournament and playing Mary Washington will get us ready for those first semester league games."