For a University of Dayton women’s basketball squad that is coming off back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, this upcoming season presents a whole new challenge for the Flyers.
Gone from last year’s team are seven seniors, including four starters – one of whom was Dayton’s all-time leading scorer, Justine Raterman. The lone returning starter of the group is sophomore guard Andrea Hoover.
Yet, despite having one of the youngest rosters in the country, head coach Jim Jabir is still confident his team can continue its recent success.
“I think, at times, you’ll see that we are going to take our bumps,” Jabir said. “But I think in the end we are going to be a much better, a much different and much tougher team than we were in the beginning.”
This season, according to Jabir, the team will rely heavily on the leadership of its returning players, especially of its lone returning starter, Hoover.
Hoover is the reigning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, as well as a preseason First Team A-10 selection by CollegeSportsMadness.com.
According to Jabir, Hoover will need to adjust to being the “go- to” player on the team this year.
“That’s different [being the go-to person] because now defenses are geared to stopping her,” Jabir said. “Last season, she was left open a lot more, so she’s got to learn to handle that type of responsibility.”
Besides Hoover, the team will also look to its senior leadership. The team has forward Olivia Applewhite, who led UD in scoring in the first exhibition of the season, as well as guard Samantha MacKay, who Jabir said he will look toward being the floor general this season. Jabir said MacKay will need to make good decisions with the ball in her hands.
There is also redshirt senior Brittany Wilson, who is coming back from a knee injury, which sidelined her for the entire season last year.
Rounding out the returning players will be junior center Cassie Sant, and sophomore forward Ally Malott, who joined Hoover on the A-10 All-Rookie team last season. Jabir said both Sant and Malott have greatly improved this offseason.
As for the freshmen, there will be a total of six new faces on the Dayton roster for this season. The recruiting class was ranked No. 32 in the country, as well as the top class in the A-10, according to ESPN.com.
Jabir said he is expecting big things from a pair of guards in Kelly Austria and Amber Deane, both of whom he thinks can see significant minutes this season. In addition to those two, Jabir also says he can see guard Bre Elder stepping up this season, as well as guard Lexi Carpenter.
For Hoover, she said that she thinks the lack of experience on the team will have some effect, but the team needs to be patient as the season progresses.
“It’ll obviously have effects in games. There will be a big learning curve. We will need to take everything in stride,” Hoover said. “We need to be patient; it’s not going to come as quickly as we want it to because we’re so young. We just need to be patient and let the struggles go, and get better from there.”
Despite the lack of experience, according to Sant, the team already has great chemistry.
“We’re definitely a close-knit team this year,” Sant said. “I think in the past it’s been a little shaky, but this year everyone’s really tight. Everyone’s really focused and driven on achieving our goals.”
Heading into the season, the Flyers once again have its goals set high, with winning the A-10 for the second straight season as the top objective.
“I think we have as good of chance as any of winning, and the league is going to be a difficult one,” Jabir said. “It’s cliché, but it’s true, every game is going to be a difficult game, every game is going to be a war.”
As for the non-conference slate, the Flyers will host a number of major programs, including Vanderbilt University and Michigan State University. UD will also travel to Arizona State University for the ASU Classic and will face UNLV in the first round.
All in all, Jabir says that he is excited to get the year started, and is looking forward to another challenging season at the helm of the Flyers program.
“I’m excited for the year,” Jabir said. “I like the challenge of having a new team and new faces, and I think they work very, very hard. I think we have a lot of pieces, and I think it’s a matter of putting all of those pieces together and figuring out what it looks like in the end.”
As for what Hoover wants people to remember most about the season, she says it’s the team’s work ethic.
“I want people to remember how hard we worked for each game, and I want fans, or even other teams to look and say, ‘Wow, they worked really hard and they played their butt off,’ because that’s the only thing we can control is our effort on the court,” she said.
The Flyers open its regular season schedule on Friday, Nov. 9, at 4 p.m. at the Maggie Dixon Classic in Chicago against Mississippi Valley State University.