Womens basketball preview

Longwood Women’s Basketball returns for another season. Recently, Longwood announced the Willett Hall attendance policies for 2021-2022. This allows fans back into the arena, which was prohibited last year due to COVID-19 mitigation. 

Longwood has begun preparing for their opening game against the University of Maryland who is ranked fifth in the nation. This will be the third time that these teams meet after a decade, dating back to 2011 and 2010. That was prior to Longwood joining the Big South Conference. 

“We’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for them. And you know, when you play an opponent that big, you’re trying to get that big-game experience that everybody wants to play towards the end of the season,” said Coach Rebecca Tillett. 

Last season, the Lancers ranked third in the Big South Conference. They had an overall record of 14-11. They averaged per game 71.8 points, 40.2 rebounds, 12 assists, and 7.6 steals. The team has a total of eight players returning including all five starters. The Lancers are looking forward to building upon their success from last season. 

Last year, forward Akila Smith was named the Big South Defensive Player of the Year. She has the highest career field goal percentage in team history and is only one of two players with a triple-double in team history. This season she’s been named the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award Preseason Watch List.

“Playing a team like Maryland for the first game helps us to discover where we are. A lot of teams in our conference don’t get this opportunity, so I’m excited,” said Smith. “We’ve been stressing the importance of defense and learning how to play against switches.”

Guard Kyla McMakin has become the 23rd player in team history to score at least 1,000 points and the fastest to do so. In her first season at Longwood in 2019-2020, she was named Big South Freshman of the Year.

In being asked about her success, McMakin stated, “I definitely play with a really big competitive spot. So yeah, I do want to be a threat. I want it to be where like the team has to be worried about me.” 

McMakin also provided her thoughts on the University of Maryland, which is a Power 5 team. Last season, they had a record of 26-3. They made it all the way to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. 

“They play very different than any other team we’ve ever seen,” said McMakin. “It’s going to be a battle on who can stop who.”

Both Akila Smith and Kyla McMakin were selected to the All-Big South Preseason First Team. This is the first time in team history that two players were selected. 

The team is now 2-2 and will travel to Lamar this Sunday. 

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