Trojan women look to build on success of last season
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 16, 2007 3:18 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- The Mount Olive College women's basketball program is facing a pivotal, but exciting, year.
Returning their most-experienced team in Wendy Lee's eight-year tenure as head coach, the Trojan women have an opportunity to put themselves among the Conference Carolinas elite. Six-plus starters are back and two more will join the team sometime in January, giving Lee a deep -- and quality-filled -- rotation.
"I have confidence in this group," said Lee. "Their confidence and maturity has given me confidence in myself. They have a hunger from last year and excitement about their future. They believe in each other."
Mount Olive triumphed in six of its final nine games a year ago. Included in that stretch were victories over nationally-ranked Anderson (S.C.) and archrival Barton College, two teams which advanced to the NCAA Division II East Regional.
A season-ending, two-point loss to St. Andrews -- another tournament qualifier -- has provided the fire which fueled the Trojans' souls during the offseason. The players saw promise for the future and just how special this team could be this winter.
"This is it. This is the year," said senior point guard Keona Corley. "There is a burning desire inside me. We all believe in each other."
A second-team, all-conference selection last season, Corley finished among the nation's leaders in assists and steals. She holds the school record in both categories.
Also back is sophomore forward Helen Moore, who earned second-team, all-conference recognition in 2006-07. She's joined by junior center Alisa Jones, senior center Sierra Medeiros, junior guard Tomeka Prichard and junior guard Brittney Robich.
Those six players accounted for more than 82 percent of the team's offense. Moore averaged 15.3 points an outing, while Prichard pumped in 10.8. Robich was next at 9.6, followed by Jones (8.3) and Medeiros (7.0).
Once redshirt sophomore guard Meaghan Vanderhorst and senior forward Jill Oaks return to the court, the Trojans will have more offensive firepower to utilize. Vanderhorst suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Trojans' second game. Due to NCAA transfer rules, Oaks has one semester of eligibility remaining.
"This is a deep junior class that got a lot of (playing) minutes last year," said Lee. "This is the first time in my career that we have this much experience returning. There is less teaching in practice, which helps us progress farther in our system."
Jones, the team's top rebounder last season, said the team should benefit greatly from its depth.
"We'll have good ball handling and not just one person to handle all the scoring duties when someone is subbed," said Jones. "We have a better blend of players who can keep the opponent's defense honest. That should be more apparent this year on the court."
Lee also hopes to receive solid play from senior Keisha Monroe, who transferred from Georgia State University. A North Carolina native, Monroe played in 30 games for the Panthers and averaged nearly two points a contest.
Rounding out the returners are Keshaun Mozee, Latara Wade and Samone Bland. The trio of underclassmen combined to play in 56 games last season.
"We know our strengths and weaknesses as coaches and players," said Lee. "We're trying to build on those strengths. We feel like we are going to get better (each day). We just need to execute on big plays and our work ethic must show up every day, either in practice or games."
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