By: Meaghan McNichol – Staff Writer
The Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team is entering the 2014-15 season with high expectations.
The team is projected to place first in the Atlantic 10 Conference for a third consecutive season.
“I think being picked as first in the A-10 is a result of this season, not last season. I think if we flopped last season and had everybody back we wouldn’t be first,” head coach Jim Jabir said.
The team entered The Associated Press and the USA Today Coaches National Preseason Poll ranked No. 22 overall, and has now been receiving votes in at least one major poll for 38 consecutive weeks.
Last year, the team finished with a record of 23-8 after a loss to the University of Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The team is disappointed with the results of last season and plan to find more success in the upcoming season.
“We expect to win the A-10 tournament and regular season. We want to get to the second round of the tournament, win and get to the third round but we don’t focus on the ranking,” junior guard Kelley Austria said.
The team has been working in the offseason to strengthen what they believed to be their weaknesses last year, especially defense.
Having only lost one player last season, forward Cassie Sant, who averaged 25.7 minutes per game, the team felt comfortable working together to adjust during the offseason.
Jabir believes having so many returning players will be a huge contributor to the success they hope to accomplish.
“Only losing one player from last season has helped us because we have really good chemistry. We play very well together, we’re all very unselfish,” junior guard Amber Deane said.
Senior guard Andrea Hoover returns as reigning A-10 Player of the Year, joining senior forward Ally Malott on the A-10 Preseason First Team All-Conference. Deane was named to the A-10 Preseason Second Team, while sophomore guard Celeste Edwards received accolades for A-10 Preseason Third Team and A-10 Preseason All-Defensive Team.
Not having to start from the beginning in learning both plays and the team dynamic has been a huge part of the team’s offseason. As well as working on their game the team has also worked together to not let the pressures of their ranking get in their heads.
“Coach doesn’t let us focus on the rankings. He’ll congratulate us once he hears stuff and then we don’t talk about it after, we just keep playing our game,” Deane said.
Jabir’s resume has been built on keeping that outside noise away from the team’s focus. UD posts an overall record of 120-30 with five NCAA tournament bids over the last five years.
This year the Flyers opened up their season with a 93-18 victory against Eckerd College at UD Arena. The first half of the season the women will face teams outside of the A-10.
The team is hoping to start off strong and build a positive record when they begin to face Atlantic 10 teams in January.
Jabir plans to accomplish this by setting team goals.
“We’ve broken the season up into championships, like we go to the West Coast and we have Washington State and Gonzaga our first two games on the road so we’re considering that a tournament, we want to win a championship there, and then the next weekend we go Iowa and play in a tournament, we want to win that championship,” Jabir said.
Treating each game and each road trip as a tournament is a tactic to help the team prepare for the pressures of tournaments such as the A-10 and the NCAA.
The team doesn’t plan on letting their No. 1 ranking in the A-10 and No. 22 overall ranking get in the players’ heads – or in their way. They plan to achieve success by taking it game by game and utilizing team chemistry as a rallying point during the ups and downs of the season.