Despite only being sophomores, Brie Perpignan and Kayla Liles have the composure of veteran seniors on the basketball court. This year, the team is composed of nine underclassmen and four juniors and one redshirt junior, a similar group to last year’s young cohort.
Perpignan’s goal for this season is “to be more consistent.” Last year the Phoenix finished 9-21 with only four conference wins, the worst record for them in the past decade. And with two NCAA tournament bids in that time period, the expectations are always high for the Phoenix. But with new freshmen ready to make an impact, combined with their strong leadership, Elon is ready to take the next step.
A year ago, point guard Perpignan was third on the team in minutes at an impressive 25 MPG, playing in all 30 games. She averaged 8.9 PPG and 2.4 APG, making her the Phoenix’s third leading scorer and assist leader. On defense, Perpignan was second with 10 blocks and 31 steals in total, all while being the shortest starter.
The 5-foot-7 Virginia native has scored 29 total points in her first three games of the 2019-20 season while leading the team in minutes played. She’s a commanding force of the Phoenix offense and has brought the fire on defense. Perpignan has the responsibility of leading her team, along with typically guarding one of the opponent’s best players. On defense, she picked up three steals in each of her first two games and is always on the floor hustling for loose balls.
Using her smaller frame, Perpignan is able to weave around defenders in order to create scoring opportunities. Elon’s offense is based around setting screens to get her toward the basket.
Her composure with the ball mimics one of the guards who recently graduated from Elon — Shay Burnett, a four-year starter and 1,500-point scorer who is now playing professionally in Sweden. Both Burnett and Perpignan were given big roles early on in their college careers, which helped Shay become more experienced before the team played on bigger stages. Based on Perpignan’s growth, Phoenix fans are in store for a great future with #0.
Last week against Appalachian State University, Elon trailed by more than 20 points in the first half. Yet in the second half, Perpignan snatched two steals, scored five points and added a pair of assists to junior and forward Jaylin Powell, propelling the game into overtime. Despite the long odds, Perpignan and the Phoenix found a way to battle back, eventually winning the game.
Looking ahead to Friday, Nov. 22, the Phoenix will face ACC powerhouse North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Last year, Elon fell 100-69 and Perpignan struggled, with five points and four turnovers in 20 minutes. North Carolina has won every game this season by 30 or more points, but Elon is bound to put up a better fight than their previous opponents. Perpignan is set to face North Carolina’s best player — 6-foot-2 senior guard Taylor Koenan.
On the wing, the Phoenix have an aggressive guard looks to make plays in Kayla Liles. The sophomore started 11 games last year as a freshman, finishing with double-digit scoring in seven. Originally from Maryland, Liles plays with passion and emotion, taking charges on defense and encouraging her teammates during timeouts.
Liles’ quick crossover disrupts defenses and creates space on offense. She’s versatile for being able to drive and shoot the ball at a high level, and her length on defense allows her to get her hands in passing lanes and put pressure on the opponent’s offense. Standing at only 5-foot-10, she impresses with her ability to grab rebounds on both offense and defense. Against Marist, Liles led the team in rebounds with a total of nine, three of which were offensive.
When one player is struggling, the other is willing to step up; that’s what makes Perpignan and Liles an effective team. In Sunday’s loss against Marist, Perpignan had trouble finding the net on offense. In her 30 minutes on the floor, she shot 2/10 from the field with a season-low five points. But when she cooled off, Liles began to heat up, shooting 5 for 11 with three free-throws, scoring a team-high 13 points.
Although they lost the game, Liles proved she could step up in a situation where Perpignan needed her to. The sophomore duo have proven themselves, and with a larger role on this year’s team, they’re poised for success.