By BRANDY SIMPSON
With the start of the season just a few days away, the University of Mary Washington women’s basketball team hopes to kick off another winning season. The Eagles are coming off a strong season last year in which they captured the Capital Athletic Conference regular season title and finished 15-1 in their conference and 20-6 overall.
Head Coach Deena Applebury feels optimistic going into this season.
“I feel pretty good about this season,” Applebury said. “We have a solid freshmen class and a large returning group.”
The Lady Eagles return their five starters from a year ago, including their top two scorers from last season in seniors Jenna McRae and Kattie Wimmer. The combination of the veteran experience who helped UMW win the regular season title last season and the influx of freshman talent has the women’s basketball team gaining national attention. UMW is ranked as the No. 16 team in the nation in the D3 News preseason national poll.
While Coach Applebury thinks it is nice to be garnering such early attention, she still feels that the Eagles need to maintain their focus.
“We can’t overlook any opponent and we need to keep our eye on the prize,” Applebury said. “We have strong competition starting out of the gate.”
The season opens with the Lady Eagles playing at Washington & Lee University on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Mary Washington lost to Washington & Lee in the season opener last year 54-49, a fact that Applebury has not forgotten.
“Washington & Lee is a tough opponent,” Applebury said. “They beat us last year. Hopefully we are hungry and we want revenge.”
Although the team received somewhat of a morale boost by being nationally ranked in the preseason, there are still a few concerns as the season opener for the Eagles nears.
“We still need to get healthy,” Applebury said. “We have three or four players who are not practicing or who are only partially practicing.”
A formidable opponent like Washington & Lee will be par for the course for the basketball team the 2011-2012 season. Mary Washington will also face two strong out-of-conference opponents early in the season in Randolph-Macon College and Roanoke College. In the 2010 Randolph-Macon Tipoff Tournament, Mary Washington faced both of those teams, falling to Randolph-Macon and pulling off an impressive win over Roanoke.
A season opening win over the Generals would be the boost that the Eagles are looking for as they try to get the season off to a solid start. The first home game for UMW won’t come until Dec. 3, when the Lady Eagles host Frostburg State University at 2 p.m.