The Elon University women’s basketball roster enters the 2014-2015 season largely intact from last year.
The team includes the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year and sophomore forward Jennifer Rhodes, as well as a member of the Southern Conference All-Freshman team, sophomore guard Lauren Brown.
This may spell trouble for the rest of the Colonial Athletic Association, as the Phoenix enters its first year of play in the new conference.
“They were key contributors last year,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith of Rhodes and Brown. “We’re expecting for them to build upon what they did last year and not rest on what they did last year. So far, so good.”
Coming off of an up-and-down season that ended with a loss in the Southern Conference tournament to No. 1 seed University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Elon has set its sights on making a lasting impression in the CAA.
In order to do so, the team has shifted its focus to amp up the offensive play with higher intensity.
With so many players available, pushing the tempo has become a point of focus. Since many of the players have in-game experience, the Phoenix has many options to work with on offense.
“We really want to focus on playing an up-tempo game,” Brown said. “We’re putting more emphasis on pushing the ball, as we have a lot of depth this year which is helping us play the game we want to play.”
Defense, Brown said, is the most improved-upon aspect of the entire team.
“This year we want to emphasize on defense,” she said. “Offense won’t be a problem. Defense wins championships, and this year we just want to emphasize on being that team [that focuses on defense]. That’s what we want to be known as.”
The new and improved style of play was evident in Elon’s 92-49 exhibition victory against Catawba College Nov. 2 at Alumni Gym.
At the conclusion of the game, Smith was pleased with the amount of playing time the young, but experienced, roster had.
“We were able to play a lot of people, and I think that’s something we’ll continue throughout the season,” Smith said.
Rhodes is looking to fill a leadership role on a roster with only three seniors. She’s coming off a freshman season in which she led the team in blocks and was first in the SoCon in points per game for a freshman.
“I think I have a role,” she said. “I think I fit my role as a post player pretty well. I try to lead with my actions more than my voice.”
The leadership and experience exhibited by Rhodes and Brown, among others, will be the key to helping the Phoenix bounce back from their 2013-2014 season, though only time will tell if the off-season adjustments will be successful in regular season play.