Friday, November 09, 2012

Virginia Tech women expect some improvement

Four starters return to a Virginia Tech team that went 7-23 overall and 3-13 in ACC play last season.

Virginia Tech's Ugu Ugoka (right) battles against Alyssa Fenyn (left) in preseason practice. Fenyn is one of four returning starters for the Hokies. Ugoka will join the team after nine games.

Photos by Matt Gentry | The Roanoke Times

Virginia Tech's Ugu Ugoka (right) battles against Alyssa Fenyn (left) in preseason practice. Fenyn is one of four returning starters for the Hokies. Ugoka will join the team after nine games.

Virginia Tech coach Dennis Wolff says he'll be disappointed if this year's team isn't better than last year's.

Virginia Tech coach Dennis Wolff says he'll be disappointed if this year's team isn't better than last year's.

Virginia Tech Hokies basketball

Berman Courtside

The Virginia Tech women's basketball team has endured five straight years without a winning season.

Little is expected again this season, but the Hokies are hoping that reinforcements will make the squad better.

"We're in a better place than we were this time last year," second-year coach Dennis Wolff said. "We've got more depth. We've got more experience.

"I'd be disappointed if we didn't have a better team than we did last year."

Starters Monet Tellier, Aerial Wilson, Alyssa Fenyn and Porschia Hadley are back from last year's 7-23 team, which finished in 10th place in the ACC with a 3-13 league mark.

Tech has been picked to finish 11th in a preseason poll of ACC coaches, sports information directors and media members. Tech also was 11th in a separate poll of just the coaches.

"I want to walk into the arenas ... [with] us having a mindset that we're going to try to win the games," Wolff said. "That's a step we have to take because I'm not sure that was there. These kids tried as hard as they could last year, but sometimes we were undermanned."

The Hokies have lost starting power forward LaTori Hines-Allen, who transferred to Towson, and reserve Brittni Montgomery, who transferred to Central Florida.

But Wolff has added junior college transfer Uju Ugoka and freshmen Lauren Evans, Alex Kiss-Rusk, Taijah Campbell and Alexis Lloyd.

"All the new faces are very intense and they're very competitive, which makes everybody better," Tellier said.

"We have a better chemistry," Wolff said. "We have guys that want to play."

Another freshman, forward Hannah Young, is not academically eligible for the fall semester but is expected to become eligible in mid-December and, at that point, enroll in school and join the squad.

Tech is planning to hold Ugoka out for the first nine games because she committed an undisclosed violation of NCAA amateurism rules while in junior college. Tech is hoping the NCAA will reduce the number of games she must sit out.

The 6-foot-1 Ugoka, a two-time junior college All-American, is expected to make an impact at power forward when she does take the court. She would have started today's opener against Old Dominion.

"Uju is a little bit of an undersized post player, but I'd be surprised if there's a more aggressive player 15 feet and in than her," Wolff said. "I'd be very surprised if Uju isn't taking as many shots as [Tellier, Wilson and Fenyn] - in different ways, with offensive rebounds and getting to the free-throw line and some post touches that we really weren't afforded last year."

Campbell, a 6-3 post player from Canada, will join the returning starters in today's lineup.

"Athletically, she looks like some of the girls ... on some of the other [ACC] teams last year," Wolff said.

Tellier averaged 13.7 points and 34.1 minutes at off-guard last season.

"My personal goal is to be more consistent," Tellier said. "My inconsistency came when I got frustrated with myself and I just stopped taking the shots that I needed to take. I think that's what I need to be more consistent in, not getting so frustrated in myself."

Wilson averaged 12.1 points and 35.6 minutes at point guard. Fenyn, the small forward, averaged 7.8 points and 35.4 minutes.

Lauren Evans and Lloyd will provide needed backcourt depth.

"There's more bodies, so now we can actually come out of the game, take a nice little breather and won't have to worry about whether or not they're going to be able to keep the pace up," Tellier said. "Last year we let some fatigue get in the way. ... There were some games that we didn't fight to the end in."

Kiss-Rusk will be a backup post player, as will junior Nia Evans.

The Hokies ranked last in the ACC in scoring offense (51.7 ppg) last season.

"This year, we have more of a post presence," Tellier said. "Last year, it was really guard-heavy. This year, they're going to have to worry about the guards and the posts."

Tech could use more second-chance points. The team ranked 11th in the ACC in offensive rebounds and last in rebounding margin.

The Hokies also ranked last in free-throw percentage (59.4 percent), field-goal percentage (34.4 percent) and 3-point field-goal percentage (27.2 percent).

"If you're not putting the ball in the basket, you're not going to win," Wolff said. "We have to shoot better. ... All the kids who were on campus this summer spent a lot of time and effort shooting."

Giles graduate Lyndsey Jackson was planning to join the team as a walk-on, but Wolff said Jackson changed her mind. Jackson's mother said Jackson plans to transfer to Radford, where she will be a nonplaying student.

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