After securing a spot in the NCAA tournament by winning the conference last year, there was a question of whether the team would behave differently on the court after replacing half its team.
Six new faces on the Elon bench did not seem to change much for the women’s basketball team as the Phoenix dominated in its lone preseason game of the season, defeating the Anderson University Trojans on Sunday night, 102-47.
“We see a lot of that in practice every day, flashes of greatness,” said head coach Charlotte Smith. “I felt like the team did a really good job of being poised in the post, being patient and not trying to overdo it and just making simple.”
“I’m pleased with the performance of the freshmen,” Smith said about the newcomers. “There are going to be ups and downs, times where they don’t execute and don’t know what they’re doing out there, but I tell them don’t worry about whether or not you’re making mistakes – I just want you to play hard. I feel like they all went out there tonight and played to the best of their ability in terms of competing.”
Returns on the team said they feel the same way about the freshmen.
“I think all of them are showing a lot of growth,” said sophomore guard Lexi Mercer. “I think they’re all doing really well about stepping up and they have their jitters, but after the first half you could see in the second half that they felt more comfortable out on the court.”
Four of the six freshmen on the Elon squad played during the game on Sunday, with the other two not dressing. Guard Saadia Munford was the standout newcomer, scoring 12 points for the maroon and gold and assisting on three others. Guard Ariel Colon and forward Jaylin Powell tacked on nine each for the Phoenix.
“It’s definitely an adjustment for our team having a lot of young players,” Mercer said. “We’ve kind of just broken things up and taken it one step at a time, and I feel like they’re doing really well at becoming acclimated to our system and it’s starting to work out well for us.”
“Even though we’re young, we have a lot of good depth,” Smith said. “Our freshmen have done a really good job in preseason of coming in to watch extra film to understand what we’re doing out there. It felt like we did a really good job tonight, and I think the more that they learn and get acclimated to our system, the better we’ll be in terms of our depth.”
After winning the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) conference last season, Elon checked in at No. 10 on the preseason CollegeInsider.com Women’s Mid-Major poll, falling from its No. 3 ranking at the end of the previous season. The Phoenix also received one vote in the first USA TODAY Coaches Poll, tying Elon for No. 49 in the national with Villanova and Boise State.
The season for Elon will begin Nov. 10 at home, when the Phoenix welcomes the Winthrop University Eagles for the 7 p.m. game.
“I’m hoping that this non-conference season goes well and that carries on into the CAA conference games,” sophomore center Ra’Shika White said.
As the season begins, there is one goal that White wants to obtain more than anything else.
“I’m hoping we get another ring on our finger,” White said.