Right from the start, the UVA women’s basketball team faces some stiff competition. After playing in the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu against teams like Texas, Kentucky and Minnesota, the Cavs will gear up for big games with Wisconsin and Connecticut.
For the women’s basketball team to get to the NCAA tourney, Monica Wright, last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year, will have to have an even better season.
And that’s all before UVA starts conference play in one of the country’s most competitive conferences, the ACC. Staring down the likes of Duke and Maryland, says head coach Debbie Ryan, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
"It prepares you for anything else you’re going to see the rest of the year," says Ryan. "In terms of postseason play, you get all types of styles, and you’re prepared for anything that might come down the pike…styles of play and physicality of play, quickness and speed. We have all of it in the ACC."
After a 2006-2007 season in which UVA went 19-15 on the season and 5-9 in the ACC, Ryan says this year the Cavs are ready to run.
"We’re going to be a very aggressive defensive team, a very aggressive rebounding team," she says. "We love to run with the basketball because we have a lot of athletes, so you’ll see a wide-open type of offense. We’re going to get up and down the court quickly."
The Hoos return the core of last year’s team, which missed the NCAA Tournament but made it to the Elite Eight in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. UVA’s two big offensive guns are back—junior forward Lyndra Littles, who averaged 17.3 points per game last year, and sophomore Monica Wright, who scored 15.1 per game. Wright was also voted the ACC Freshman of the Year.
Controlling the offense, senior Sharnee Zoll is back at the point and is on pace to break Dawn Staley’s ACC career assist record. But one thing that the Cavs have this year that was missing last season is an inside presence—6′ 3" Aisha Mohammed.
Still, competition in the ACC is fierce. UVA has been picked to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. But Ryan says some people might be surprised.
"We’re going to be able to do a lot of things that people don’t think we can do," she says. "A lot of people don’t think we can shoot the ball. We can shoot the ball. And we have some power inside, which is something we haven’t had in a while. We have some things that people aren’t aware of."
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