11/17/05 — Great expectations

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Great expectations

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on November 17, 2005 1:59 PM

Mount Olive's women's basketball team was picked to finish sixth this season in the 11-team Division II Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference preseason coaches' poll.

The selection was respectable for sixth-year coach Wendy Lee, but she sees the potential for even more success in the balanced league.

"We want to finish in the top three in the conference," she said. "We were picked six. That's respectable, but with a balanced conference we've got a chance to do better than that."

MOC Basketball

Freshman Tomeka Prichard (10) is one of many new faces on this year's roster.

With the CVAC tournament at Mount Olive in early March, Lee and the Trojans also have their sights set on a bigger prize.

"We also want to win the conference tournament at home," she said.

Those expectations may seem bold with nine newcomers -- including seven freshmen and two JUCO transfers -- on the 16-player roster.

Still, Lee likes the leadership of the returners and the eagerness of the new players to help lead an up-tempo offensive attack that should feed off of a pressuring defense.

"There are only two seniors. We're very excited about the future, and we've got a good nucleus returning," Lee said. "I think the combination will be exciting. We've had to start slower, but it helps with our execution, because they are very focused.

"We've got players fighting for positions, and there are no set lineups. Practice is competitive and energetic. They bring it to practice every day."

Mount Olive returns fourth-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, senior forward Teneal Boone (6-foot-1), who reached double figures in rebounds in 16 of 28 games last season with seven double-doubles. Fellow senior, guard Anita Rogers (5-5), played considerable minutes in the backcourt and had a big offensive night in a win over Queens last season.

Despite plenty of new faces on the court this season, Boone and Rogers believe the team chemistry has been solid in the early-going.

"We are the only seniors, so the leadership falls to us. We have some underclassmen stepping up, so it's not just going to be us," Boone said. "If I'm not doing something right, the freshmen, sophomores and juniors can step up and let me know, as well. It all comes down to team chemistry."

Last year, the Trojans got out of the gate with an impressive 6-0 mark in CVAC play and were 8-4 overall at the time and ranked as high as No. 7 in the East Region. The ranking was Mount Olive's first-ever in women's basketball.

To gear up for what looks to be a competitive CVAC, Mount Olive will look to start strong again as they open the season on the road at the USC-Aiken Tournament on Friday and Saturday. The Trojans' home opener is Nov. 22 against Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association foe, Virginia State.

Mount Olive opens CVAC play with road games at Queens (Nov. 29) and Limestone (S.C.) (Dec.3). Mixed in with their conference schedule, the Trojans also face Chowan College, N.C. Central and Presbyterian in non-conference play.

Goldsboro High and Mount Olive graduate Brandy Smith enters her second year as an assistant under Lee.

The frontcourt

Boone should be the staple up front as she averaged 9.46 points and 8.29 rebounds per game last year. Boone also averaged 1.57 blocked shots per game last season and recorded at least one blocked shot in 21 of 28 games.

Sophomore forward/center Sierra Medeiros (6-2) has shown improvement in the post during practice and scrimmages after logging 233 minutes in 27 games in 2004-2005.

"We're expecting big things from both of these girls," Lee said. "Sierra has gained confidence with a better understating of our system and expectations. She's had an impact in practice and our scrimmages."

Also showing promise is junior college transfer Ebony Green (5-11) and freshman Alisa Jones (6-0). Green, an East Duplin graduate, played at Elon University and Lenoir Community College before joining the Trojans this year. Lee complemented Jones' energy and rebounding potential.

Last year's leading scorer, forward Latoria Harvey, who averaged 13 points and nearly 10 rebounds last season, graduated. Harvey was a pivotal part of a frontcourt that helped Mount Olive outrebound its opposition overall last season.

The backcourt

Lee's point of emphasis on the recruiting trail last offseason was to go out and find depth, athleticism and better shooters at the guard positions.

It seems as if that mission was accomplished.

To go along with Rogers and fellow returners juniors LeAnne Simms (5-7) Tilah Worthy (5-5) and sophomores Keona Corley (5-5) and Ashley Jones (5-5), Lee now has a roster with 11 total guards after bringing in seven newcomers.

North Johnston graduate Lakisha McFadden (5-6) and Farmville Central grad Meaghan Vanderhorst (5-6), along with Lakewood's Bokeeter Mozee (5-6), Northern Nash's Latara Wade (5-5) and Richmond County's Brittney Robich (5-7) are all freshmen that will likely all battle for playing time. Fellow freshman, Tomeka Pride (5-9) of Havelock, is listed as a guard/forward, while junior guard Anna Bashans (5-7) is a junior college transfer from Alpena Community College in Michigan.

"I like our depth. "We'll have good rotations and fresh legs on the court. It's conducive to the defense we like to run ... in your face with a lot of denial, pressure defense," Lee said. "We're deeper in our bench, and can keep 40 minutes of pressure. I like our athleticism. We should be strong in transition, and an exciting team to watch."