SEASON PREVIEW: Balance Is Key For Royals

(images by Scott Eyre)
(images by Scott Eyre)

After laying out the foundation of a new program identity last season, second year head coach Jenny Posey looks to keep the EMU women's basketball program moving in a forward direction. This team will count on key returning players to lead a group of new faces through a tough conference schedule and back into the ODAC tournament behind a balanced attack.

Record in 2018-19: 10-16 (7-11 ODAC)
Coach: Jenny Posey (10-16 overall, 7-11 ODAC in one season) – Last season, the Royals finished fifth in the ODAC with 8.6 steals per game

Season opener in 2019-20:
- playing at R-MC Tip-Off Classic in Ashland, Va. against William Peace on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 8:00pm

Other season highlights:
- host Hood on Saturday, Nov. 16 for home opener in Yoder Arena
- host Southern Virginia on Friday, Nov. 22 as the Rowdy Royals Game in part of the two-day EMU Invitational
- return from Christmas break to play Ferrum on Saturday, Jan. 4
- host four doubleheaders with the EMU basketball men
- celebrate Senior Recognition in their home finale against Bridgewater on Wednesday, Feb. 19
- end regular season at Roanoke on Saturday, Feb. 22

Stats to watch this season:
- forward Chrissy Delawder (Broadway, Va./Broadway) needs 151 points to crack the EMU Top 30 list for Career Scoring Leaders
- guard Lexi Deffenbaugh (Fishersville, Va./Wilson Memorial) needs 16 assists to enter the EMU Top 16 list for Career Assists


SID:  How would you recap 2018-19 in a couple of sentences, and how does that play into your team for this fall?

JP:  The 2018-2019 season was a year of transition for us. We had a brand new coaching staff and system that our student-athletes had to buy-in to. That set us up with greater consistency and a deeper understanding of expectations coming into the 2019-2020 season.

SID:  You lost some key seniors and a handful of underclassmen.  How will you replace them, both in play and leadership?

JP:  We lost our captains (Lindsey Krisak and Precious Waddy) and three players (Lexi Dean, Krisak and Jess Washington) who started for us at various points last season. While it is never easy to replace such contributors, it is a part of athletics at any level and there are always players who rise to the occasion and embrace their new roles.

SID:  Who are your key returners and what roles do you expect them to play this year?

JP:  We return five players this season, three of which were starters for us during last season. Returning starters Chrissy Delawder and Lexi Deffenbaugh are our captains this season. They are both such a consistent presence as people and players. Chrissy and Lexi plan to become teachers after college, their knack for this really shows through in their patience and nurturing guidance for our new players. Junior Emily McCombs (Culpeper, Va./Eastern View) also started for us last season. The energy and intensity Emily brings to the game elevates our team as a whole.

SID:  With a nice returning core of starters, what does that mean for your other returners who didn't see as much playing time last year but who know your system?

JP:  Our two returners who did not start last season, Jade Payton (Berryville, Va./Clarke County) and Constance Komara (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) already look like completely different players. They have much more confidence and know how to play at this level now. We look for them to have increased roles this year and will be keys to our success.

SID:  Tell me a bit about your incoming recruiting class. First an over-arching comment on the group as a whole, and then mention a few individuals and what roles they might play in their first year?

JP:  We have nine new players this year (seven freshmen and two transfers). We were really intentional as a coaching staff about bringing in quick players who have a high basketball IQ (or the basics to be able to develop it) and are really coachable. Junior Chloe Roach (Leesburg, Va./Tuscarora) will be an impact player for us this season. She was Third Team All-ODAC in 2017 before spending some time at Northern Virginia Community College. Now that she's back, she's having to get back into the swing of things, but has already been extremely impressive in her play as well as leadership for our younger players. Right now, it also looks like freshmen Tiffany Carey (Bedford, Va./Jefferson Forest), Jada Jackson (Portsmouth, Va./Churchland) and Hailey Page (Winchester, Va./Millbrook) will play some key minutes for us this season too.

 SID:  How will the way you constructed this season's schedule benefit your team?

JP:  On the women's side of ODAC play, we play 18 conference games which only leaves space for 7 non-conference games. We do our best to use these non-conference games to schedule opponents we feel like we can be competitive with. Since we have a good bit of travel during conference play this year, we tried to keep that to a minimum in our non-conference play. Playing in two tournaments (Randolph-Macon's Tip-Off Tournament and our tournament) will prepare us for quick turn-around time should we advance into post season play.

SID:  What are the biggest things you will keep or change from your first year as EMU's head coach?

JP:  It is nice to go into this season with some consistency. Our coaching staff all returns and we have five returning student-athletes who really bought into the program. We will continue to place an emphasis on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively, people will see the biggest adjustment from us as we move more towards the balanced and smart style of play we are hoping to create here at EMU.

SID:  What have you learned about your team through the preseason?

JP:  This season, more than any season I've been a part of, it seems like we have such a high ceiling for growth. We are fortunate to have some talented and very athletic student-athletes, however, nine are new players. They are discovering more about themselves, each other, the coaching staff, and college basketball every single day.

SID:  What will the strengths of your team be this season?

JP:  We were really intentional about bringing in student-athletes this year who are quick and have high basketball IQs. This will allow us to be much more active and aggressive on the defensive end of the floor. On offense, our biggest strength will be the ability to attack the basket to create. We have players who not only finish really well off the dribble, but have great vision and play unselfish basketball. I foresee us having a very balanced attack.

SID: Overall general feeling of what 2019-20 will be for your team?

JP:  The possibility is there for something really special, but first we have to develop greater consistency and be resilient in the process to get there!