11/14/06 — Looking for more success

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Looking for more success

By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on November 14, 2006 1:47 PM

The wait is coming to an end.

As the curtain comes up on the 2006-07 season, the Mount Olive Lady Trojans' coaches and players will be looking to build upon their success from last season.

"The excitement continues," said Wendy Lee, who is entering her seventh season as the Mount Olive head coach. "We're coming off of our best season since moving to Division II."

During the 2005-06 campaign, the program racked up its most victories since moving to NCAA Divison II classification in 1995, going 16-13 (10-10 in the CVAC).

For the Lady Trojans to have another successful season, they must continue to play their brand of aggressive defense against the competition.

"We're a defensive oriented team," said the team's lone senior Tilah Worthy. "Every time we go out, we want to play to the best of our abilities."

The Lady Trojans' defense made life hard for their opponents last season. The opposition shot just 37.9 percent from the floor and turned the ball over at a clip of 19.3 per game against the high energy Lady Trojans' press.

"Our philosophy is to create a lot of pressure on defense," said Lee. "We try to keep 40 minutes of constant pressure and that gears our offense."

Lee hopes her squad's ability to force turnovers from the full-court pressure defense will spark the offense.

"We keep an up-tempo style on defense and fortunately, in the past, we've been able create a lot of turnovers and convert those into points."

Creating easy lay-ups, instead of taking contested jump shots, would help a squad that lacks a proficient scorer.

Teneal Boone, who averaged a team-best 16.2 points per game, graduated this past May leaving behind only one player who averaged nearly 10 points.

The young Lady Trojans, whose 13-player roster features nine underclassmen, will look to one of their young players to help with the scoring load.

Sophomore Tomeka Prichard, last year's CVAC freshman of the year, will be counted on for both her scoring and defensive abilities. Last season, the 5-foot-9 sophomore made a team best 48 three-pointers while averaging 9.8 points and 1.7 steals per game.

"She's got long arms and quick feet," Lee said of Prichard. "She's not just athletically a great defender, but she's smart and reads things well. She anticipates what's going to happen and forces a lot of turnovers."

The lack of returning offensive players will mean Lee will look to develop some consistent scorers to offset the loss of Boone. Junior Sierra Medeiros as well as sophomores Meaghan Vanderhorst and Alisa Jones all have the ability to put up points.

While losing Boone will certainly hurt, Lee has tried to turn her departure into a positive one for the team.

"Our players are all stepping up," said Lee. "They're not relying on only one player. I think we're going to be more balanced."

Down in the post, Lee is expecting a good season from the 6-foot-2 Medeiros who recorded two double-doubles this past season.

"I think her confidence as a post player has really increased," said Lee. "We're excited about the fact that Sierra is really improving as a player and is really stepping up big for us early on."

Running the show in the backcourt will be junior Keona Corley.

Last season, Corley dished out a team-high 174 assists and has developed into a solid ball-handler.

"We want to push it and turn turnovers into points and she's good in that type of system," said Lee. "She turned a lot of games around with her energy level."

The intense preseason practices Lee and her staff has put her players through have them ready for the regular season.

"We're tired of beating up on each other," said Corley.

Medeiros believes the early hard work will show once the games begin.

"I think it helped us a lot," she said. "We're more in shape than we were in the past and more focused."

In practice, Lee uses what she calls "defensive privilege" drills to work on her attacking defense. The drill awards players points for coming up with steals, drawing charges and grabbing defensive rebounds.

In scrimmages, the defensive pressure can become so intense at times, Lee has to tell her players to back off so the offense can get some work.

Mount Olive will now get their season going for real when it opens at home against UNC Pembroke on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

The Lady Braves return three starters on a team which finished in fourth place in the Peach Belt Conference with a 15-13 overall record.

"The players and I are really anxious about our first game," said Lee. "The more people we can see there against UNC Pembroke, the better it will be."

New faces

The Mount Olive Lady Trojans will welcome three new players and two coaches to the program this season.

Freshmen Ashley Turner from Farmington High School in Illinois and Samone Bland from West Brunswick will look to contribute this season.

"(Samone) is a very athletic guard who we're excited about," said Lee. "She is a prolific rebounder for her size and outrebounds post players at times."

Also coming to the program is 6-foot-1 junior Jill Oaks, a junior college transfer from Lansing CC (Michigan) where she earned all-conference honors.

"She's a very balanced post player who can also step out on the perimeter," Lee said of Oaks. "She's going to really make us better."

On the bench, assistant coaches Cindy Hilbrich and Aisha Bryant will make up Lee's staff.

"They're very eager and anxious and they've been helping us out a lot," said Lee.