The women’s basketball team enters the season trying to replace departed leaders in center Jasmine Stone and guard LaKeisha Eaddy.
With senior leaders LaKeisha Eaddy and Jasmine Stone no longer with the women’s basketball team, coach Tonya Cardoza will need to rely on a mix of returning talent and fresh faces to replicate the team’s 2009-10 season success.
While Eaddy, the program’s all-time steals leader, and Stone, last season’s leading rebounder, used up their eligibility, junior forward Kristen McCarthy and senior guard Qwedia Wallace return from a team that went 25-9 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Owls also advanced to the Atlantic Ten Conference championship game, where they lost to Xavier, 57-55.
With McCarthy and Wallace holding down two of the guard/forward positions, Temple should have plenty of production from the backcourt. Cardoza said the main issue the Owls will need to overcome is production in the paint.
“The biggest thing is probably replacing Jasmine [Stone],” Cardoza said. “As much as Jasmine had been up and down, she was a presence. Any given night, she could go out there and get you 15 rebounds, which was evident in the championship game against Xavier. She went up against those big guys and came away with all those rebounds.”
“She wasn’t the best defensive player, but people feared her because of her height and athleticism,” Cardoza added. “[Replacing her is] my biggest concern.”
Cardoza will likely look to sophomore Victoria Macaulay and junior forward Brittany Lewis, a transfer from Virginia Tech, to replace some of Stone’s scoring. Even though sophomore forward Natasha Thames will grab her fair share of rebounds, Cardoza said, Macaulay must improve in that department as well.
“We lost one of our leading rebounders. How are we going to replace that?” Cardoza said. “Natasha [Thames] has been unbelievable, but we need somebody else out there to help her along the way. I think Vic[toria Macaulay] is showing improvement, but she needs to be more consistent.”
The Owls will also need to replace Eaddy’s presence. As a player, Eaddy helped run the offense. As a person, she helped lead last year’s squad.
On the court, junior guards BJ Williams and Shey Peddy will both compete for the starting point guard position. In terms of leadership, Cardoza said the Owls would rely on a variety of sources.
“[McCarthy is] going to lead by example – she’s going to be the hardest-working person out there. Qwedia is being more vocal, and she’s working harder than she has in the past,” said Cardoza, adding that Peddy is also showing leadership. “It’s been a result of a lot of guys doing different things, and most of them are leading by example.”
Despite many players taking on leadership roles, senior forward Marli Bennett said the team is still relatively young and will need to overcome that.
“We are going to have to play ahead of our years and experience, in a sense,” Bennett said. “There is not a lot of experience on the team, and we have to play at a level above and beyond all expectations.”
Last season, McCarthy, the undeniable star of this squad, averaged 14.8 points per game en route to being named to the First Team All-Atlantic Ten squad. Despite McCarthy’s prior success, Cardoza said the California native needs to develop additional diversity in her game in order to take the next step.
“As much as you love as hard she plays and how she’s always going all out, she has to find a different speed to play at,” Cardoza said. “We want to find a comfort level for her to change her speeds. Then, [McCarthy needs to work on] becoming a better passer, and that’s what she’s been focusing on the past few weeks.”
“I think at some point last year, she thought that she had to go out and dominate games, and now she knows that there’s a supporting cast around her,” Cardoza added. “There are guys out there that might be better shooters or whatever. I think that will make her better because she doesn’t think she has to do everything by herself.”
The Owls have a difficult out-of-conference schedule this season, which is highlighted by visits from No. 7 Ohio State and No. 5 Xavier along with trips to No. 6 Duke and No. 16 UCLA. The Owls last faced a ranked team during the second round of the NCAA tournament against Connecticut, where they lost to the Huskies, 90-36.
Despite the loss, Cardoza said the team managed to gain some perspective from the game.
“Even though the score was very lopsided, I think our players took from that, ‘Hey, I see what she’s talking about now,’” Cardoza said. “We’re not the fastest, [and] we’re not the strongest. There’s a whole other level out there that we can hopefully get to.”
“It was not just the loss to UConn that helped us learn,” McCarthy added. “Making it to the second round of the tournament gave us plenty of confidence and allowed us to gain experience. After playing UConn, we realized how much work we really need to put in to elevate our game.”
The Owls open up their season against the Buckeyes on Nov. 12 at 5 p.m. as part of a doubleheader with the men’s basketball team.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com.