Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A few minutes with the Lady Monarchs

A year ago it was a season without precedent for the Old Dominion Lady Monarchs. The last glimpse fans who made the trek to Harrisonburg got was the Lady Monarch offering little resistance to Drexal – ODU’s first loss in 18 years of CAA tournament play. No bells sounded. There wasn’t a gasp. The game played out like a microcosm of a season that turned sour during conference play.

Some of it had to do with injuries, and the inability of ODU able to establish the chemistry that led the Lady Monarchs to nearly upset Tennessee. Some of was general malaise on the players’ parts. This team never came together the way all of its predecessors had for nearly two decades before in the league. Coach Wendy Larry will tell you there’s no reason to bring up last year as everybody remembers. Larry has always been able to take each year as essentially a separate entity, much to the chagrin of media that constantly besieges her with questions of “What’s it like to win 14, 15, 16 in a row?” Larry doesn’t count. It is more of a motivational tool during recruiting time. Sophomore Pryncess Tate Dublin was dazzled by enough conference championship rings to fill all the fingers and most of the toes that Larry toted with her during a visit.

This team needs to find its own place. It will bear little resemblance to last year’s Lady Monarchs given the crop of newcomers and five departures. Tiffany Green, Jazzmin Walters and Jen Nuzzo are lost to graduation. All three played significant starting roles. Sierra Little and Margaret Harvey have departed. Harvey had minimal impact last year, battling foot injuries throughout the season. Little showed promise at times, struggled at others. But she had experience in the post, something ODU lacks this season.

Jessica Canady is the team’s lone senior and a first-team selection but she continues to rehab her knee after surgery. Jo Guilford is also rehabbing the ACL she tore minutes into ODU’s first practice last year. ODU needs them both, particularly Canady.

If you’ve seen Tia Lewis run the floor, you see the potential. Great speed and touch. She practiced all year with ODU last season after sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules. Lewis was Conference USA’s freshman of the year before leaving Central Florida. If she stays injury free, she could be a Player of the Year in the CAA.

Who’s ODU’s point guard? Jasmine Parker can do it but serves ODU better in the two spot. Larry likes what she sees out of Canadian freshman Carolann Cloutier, who at 5-9, gives ODU quite a presence at that spot. The difference maker at guard could be Kquanice Byrd, third nationally in scoring last year at Miami-Dade Junior College. Byrd and Cloutier are excellent prospects for the starting lineup.

It’s the typical schedule, but what a coup it would be for ODU to steal a win at Maryland on Nov. 19. ODU opens at home against Stanford, which will surely be the second ranked team in the nation behind UConn. Next comes Maryland, an ACC powerhouse since winning the national title in 2006. The Terps have good looking freshmen, but are really hurting in experience. Last year’s core, Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman are now in the WNBA. Starter Marah Strickland transferred to South Carolina and reserve Drey Mingo left the program. Earlier this month Maryland announced that senior forward Dee Liles (10.6 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 52 percent FG) will also no longer be with the team. Maryland has nine – count ’em nine – freshmen and sophomores on its roster (think Kim Rodgers can get more than 10 seconds this time vs. the Lady Monarchs?). This is a great opportunity for ODU.

Just for kicks, check out the video on
Sister Sledge would have been proud.

That’s all for now. Are you up for some state rankings????

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