PREVIEW: Women’s basketball plan to rebound with youth
While the Belmont women’s basketball team may be young, that doesn’t mean its coaches think the team will lose ground from last seaon.
Eight of the 13 of the players on the team may only be freshmen or sophomores, but head coach Brittney Ezell is excited to continue to build upon the foundation set in place during her first two years at the helm of the program.
“To take that jump from year one finishing sixth, to year two finishing third to year three to a new league, I think we’re right on track,” Ezell said.
For Ezell, building off of previous success starts in preseason practices she said are going well.
“ I can honestly say, out of the first 22 practices, we have not had a bad practice yet,” Ezell said. “That’s a first for me as a head coach to be able to say that we haven’t had a bad day. We’ve had some bad moments, but… our leadership has been really good and they’re stepping in and saying ‘stop it’ and move on.”
The Bruins were picked to finish third in the East division in their first season of Ohio Valley Conference play, behind Tennessee Tech and Eastern Kentucky.
“It’s flattering that they think that highly of us having not been in their league. I’d like to say it’s based on the progression we had in the A-Sun,” Ezell said.
Belmont will open the season on the road with non-conference opponents at Texas State and Texas A&M Corpus Christi before facing SEC opponents Georgia and Ole Miss. The Bruins will also face Indiana and Cincinnati.
“We want to show our kids a bunch of different styles, we’re trying to show them teams that will run really disciplined offenses and teams that will excel more with pure athleticism,” Ezell said. “So we’re trying to prepare them for anything they might see in the OVC.”
Belmont will begin OVC action after the Christmas break against SIU Edwardsville, and will face divisional favorites Tennessee Tech and Eastern Kentucky early in January.
Ezell admits the biggest challenge ahead this season is facing the unknown of new conference opponents.
“We don’t know a ton,” Ezell said. We don’t know about the cities we’re going to go to. We don’t know about the environments we’ll be playing in, and from what we’ve heard, the environments are tough.”
With the absence of last year’s leading scorers Haley Nelson and guard Cacy Burnett, the team is seeking to utilize some flexibility on the court this year.
“I like their versatility, they all can play different positions, so it will allow us to make some different match ups. I like it,” Ezell said.
Katie Brooks, a returning senior, led the team last year with 105 assists. Sophomore Adrienne Tarrence is also expected to step up in the position. Natalie Cohlmeyer is a freshman from Evansville, Ind. that’s capable of playing point guard, but is more comfortable as a shooting guard, Ezell said.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward:
Junior Molly Ernst led the team last season in three-point field goals made (58), three-point field goal percentage and free-throw percentage. Katie Carroll and Cohlmeyer will also see action at the two.
Transfer Jordyn Luffman and Julianne Downs will be splitting their time between the guard and forward positions.
“Jordyn Luffman is about a six-foot, six-foot-one guard, can play the two or the three, very physical, surprisingly, extremely springy and very athletic,” Ezell said. “She started at MTSU as a freshman, so she’s obviously very talented and can shoot the ball with range and can play at the rim.”
Freshman Frankie Joubran and Vanderbilt transfer Jordan Coleman are expected to help Torie Vaught as power forwards.
“[Joubran] just a physical kid, understands defense better than any freshman I’ve coached. She’s smart, and has a lot of bounce to her game and you wouldn’t expect that from someone who’s so muscle-bound,” Ezell said. “She and Torie are very, very similar. Frankie is more athletic than Torie, and Torie is more of a rough and tumble kind of banger on the block.”
Blair Bryce, who was a medical redshirt last year, and Alyssa Visbeen will be sharing duty in the paint.
Visbeen was second on the team in three-point field goals made (19), three-point field-goal percentage (.333), total rebounds (92) and blocks (13).