The women’s basketball team has been accustomed to being the Atlantic Ten Conference favorite in recent years. But this season the Owls find themselves adapting to a new title, that of the underdog.
The Owls were picked to finish fourth in an A-10 coaches and media poll conducted earlier this month.
“We do what we do. Each game we take it one game at a time,” coach Dawn Staley said. “People don’t have very high expectations of us in our conference, so we’ll play the underdog position to the fullest. But we’ll play a tremendous out-of-conference schedule to prepare us for what we’ll face in the conference.”
The Owls amassed a 25-8 overall record last season, going 13-1 in the conference. The dream of four straight conference championship titles was snatched in the A-10 Tournament semifinals with a 54-53 loss to Xavier.
The Owls lost hardwood leaders Kamesha Hairston and Fatima Maddox, but return eight players, including three starters.
Among the stationary components are senior forward Lady Comfort, junior forward Shenita Landry and sophomore guard LaKeisha Eaddy. Landry and Eaddy, both returning starters, will be expected to supplement the veteran Comfort, who averaged 12.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Eaddy was an intricate piece of the Owls’ NCAA Tournament run and became the first freshman to start every game under Staley. Eaddy averaged 6.7 PPG, landing a spot on the all-conference rookie team.
“She pretty much took the position by storm,” Staley said. “She made me play her by performing well in practices and she’s coming back a veteran player just playing one year. I think that our teammates look to her as being one of the leaders on this team and she has my confidence.”
Eaddy said this year’s team is faster and that Hairston and Maddox helped teach her to be the player she is today.
“They taught me everything,” Eaddy said. “They say actions speak louder than words and their actions really just helped me along. And I would like to do the same for my younger teammates and also help my older teammates out.”
Landry averaged 5.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Landry’s noticeable work ethic helped her claim the team’s hustle award for the second straight year.
“We are a very young team right now,” Landry said. “I know there are places that each person has to step up, so just being able to step up in some type of way could be something very good for our team.”
Senior Ashley Morris should see considerable time filling the point guard position vacated by Maddox. Morris has been a reserve point guard the last three seasons, averaging 3.2 points per game. However, she owns 158 turnovers to 157 assists.
A crop of fresh talent will fight to find minutes among Temple’s veteran-laden cast. The most experienced of the newcomers is junior college transfer Shanea Cotton, who posted 13.7 PPG and 7.9 RPG for Gulph Coast Community College last season. Freshman Lindsay Kimmel, who averaged 30.5 ppg at Harpersville High, could see significant minutes.
The Owls will again battle a difficult non-conference schedule that included the likes of Duke, Rutgers and Maryland. Staley hopes the non-conference schedule will prepare the Owls for the best of the A-10 – Charlotte, Xavier and George Washington.
The banners draping the Liacouras Center serve as a reminder to the Owls’ past success, one that has been achieved as both the favorite and the underdog.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.