With opening tip-off against James Madison University (JMU) less than a week away, the women’s basketball team has been holding their last few scrimmages to see where they stand as a team heading into the 2019-20 season.
The team is looking to improve upon last years’ 3-27 campaign that saw only two conference wins and an eight-game losing streak to close out the season.
2nd year Head Coach Rebecca Tillett believes the win total will be much higher this season, saying the team has improved in many areas.
“We’re working hard to develop consistent chemistry on-and-off the court. We want to play up-tempo and we’d like to dictate how a game is going to be played," she said. "We have multiple defenses in to disrupt opponents. I think we’ll play a little faster than we did last year and share the ball more than we did last year.”
As Tillett mentioned, the team is working hard to develop chemistry since they have seven new players to go along with the six returning players. Some of those new players, like junior transfer Tra’dayja Smith, are expected to have big roles this season. Smith is expected to be the team’s starting point guard.
Tillett credited Smith on her early impression she’s made on the team. “Tra’dayja has certainly established herself as a consistent point guard for us and has the opportunity to have great assist-to-turnover numbers. It’s always exciting to coach a point guard who is really keyed into that. She’s going to control the tempo and she’s going to get people really good looks.”
An important aspect of the culture that Tillett is trying to establish at Longwood is the Leadership Council, which is a group of players who set the standard for the rest of the team and serve as their representatives to the coaching staff.
To become a part of this council, players must go through an interview process with the coaching staff, write a cover letter and write out a resumé.
Tillett revealed this year’s leadership council which consists of the aforementioned Tra’dayja Smith, senior forward and Preseason First-Team All-Big South selection Dayna Rouse, junior forward Mallory Odell and freshman guard Anne-Hamilton Leroy.
Leroy is the first freshman to ever become a part of the Leadership Council.
About the decision to make a freshman a part of the council, Tillett said, “Anne has really earned the respect of her teammates as far as what she says in a team environment.”
Amidst the changes, one familiar face to the Leadership Council is Mallory Odell. The Richmond, Va. native is entering her third season with the program and has seen her stats go up every year since arriving to Longwood.
Odell said during the offseason, she has worked on her rebounding and helped to create a tougher team in practice by working with her teammates to be tougher in the paint.
Odell also spoke about what it was like to represent her teammates on the council.
She said, “It’s a really great opportunity to work on my own leadership skills and insert them into the team and communicate with my teammates in the best way. We just get to have more candid conversations with coach Tillett that I think are really effective.”
This offseason, the program took part in another round of "Toughness with the Marine Corps".
Odell described the training as, “tough, but that’s the point. We did different relays and a wrestling workout together and there was always a focus on togetherness.”
With the new additions, Odell and Tillett both said the training helped with team chemistry. Tillett also said it helped with the confidence of the team because they accomplished such daunting tasks together.
The team will be faced with their first regular season task on Wednesday (November 6), as they travel to Harrisonburg to take on the Dukes from JMU, with a 5 p.m. tip.