By: Thomas Matchell
The Volunteer State women’s basketball team opened their season Nov 1. at Gadsden State Community College with a 57-53 loss. The home opener is set against Northeast Mississippi Community College. The last matchup between these teams was during the 2019-20 season where the Lady Pioneers lost 75-63. The women’s team looks to get their revenge victory on Nov 5.
Last season, the Lady Pioneers finished with a disappointing record of (2-16) and a roster of nine players. They finished off their season losing nine games in a row and averaging 43.7 points per game as a team for the season; the lowest in seven years. The last time the women’s basketball team finished with double-digit wins was the 2018-19 season; the same season that had a complete roster of 14 players. Since then, the roster over the years has been empty and small.
“The first thing we did was we went and recruited hard, we went and got numbers so now we have a lot of numbers in practice to be able to go against each other, to make each other better…we went out and upgraded our talent level and helping them achieve and maximize their talent level to get the most out of them, and stepping on the floor and competing every night,” said coach Otis Key.
Numbers were low, and that goes for offensive and defensive statistics. The team averaged 0.0 blocks per game, in fact not even a single block was recorded by any player. The team also gave up 72.3 points per game scored by opposing teams “We got plenty of offense, the offense will come, for us having to learn how to play defense, how to stop teams, how to give ourselves more possessions, that’s something we’ll work on every day,” said coach Key
What changes this year for the Lady Pioneers is the roster size; 16 players. Of those 16 players, 13 are freshmen, “The biggest challenge for us this year is our youth because we do have 13 freshmen, you know first year college students, first year college basketball players coming into a new environment, a new system, but that gets conquered with time and putting the time every day in practice, getting better every day in practice, challenging each other every day in practice as long as we take gradual steps daily I think we will be fine,” said Key.
Expectations are high for the 2022-23 season, with an almost new and exciting roster, and with the high praise coach Keys gives this team for the season, the Lady Pioneers have a good opportunity to put last season behind them.
“One thing that I definitely expect is that our freshmen end up getting acclimated and playing a lot higher than what their age and status would show, I expect us to be a lot better than we were last year when we had minimal numbers and a lot of injuries, and I expect us to play hard,” said Key.
This year’s sophomores have a chance to make a big impact on the season to give the freshmen a chance to develop. Out of the five sophomores, only three were with the team last season: Maidra Treece, Haley Davis, and Snowden Scott.
A new roster means building chemistry, “One of the main ways we build chemistry is before practices and before games, we always hangout in the locker room, make TikToks, have fun together. We have a group chat we send pictures back to each other and always communicate with each other,” said guard Haley Davis.
Sophomore Haley Davis was the second leading scorer of the 2021-22 season with 84 points in only eight games with an average of 10.5 points per game on 38.2 field goal percentage. She was an important contributor towards the empty roster.
“A player goal for me, since I am a third year this season, is to be overall the biggest team leader and team advocate I can be for everybody, I always want to have everyone look up to me and be there for everybody personally,” said Davis.
“I always hold my sophomores to the highest level because they have been with me the longest, they are the roots of the program of what we are trying to do and everything that blossoms forward comes from them, and then we hold our freshmen to a high level too, to come in, to learn the system, to follow the expectation, and to be ready to make a contribution,” said coach Key.
Coach Key has given a mindset for the freshmen to follow for the season, “To have confidence in myself and to be more of a leader role for next year,” said freshman guard Armonie Toliver.
“Get better as a team, work better with each other, and run our plays,” said freshman forward Emma Disney.
The Lady Pioneers look to make a comeback season as the month of November approaches and will give the fans of the women’s team a taste of what they are to bring for Volunteer State Community College.
Schedule for the month of November (* – home games):
Tue. 1, 5:30 PM @ Gadsden State Community College (57-53 L)
Sat. 5, 2:00 PM Northeast Mississippi Community College* (58-72)
Mon. 7, 5:30 PM Gadsden State Community College*
Wed. 9, 5:30 PM Southwest Tennessee Community College*
Sat. 12, 2:00 PM @ Motlow State Community College
Wed. 16, 5:30 PM @ Columbia State Community College
Sat. 19, 2:00 PM Cleveland State Community College*
Mon. 21, 5:30 PM UT Southern*
Mon. 28, 5:30 PM @ UT Southern
Wed. 30, 5:30 PM Dyersburg State Community College*