Women’s Basketball Season Preview

Mercer Women's basketball set to take on Coastal Georgia in their first game of the season

Image: Mercer Marketing and Communications

Mercer Women’s basketball set to take on Coastal Georgia in their first game of the season

Sophie Peel, Staff Writer

The Mercer women’s basketball team will kickoff their 2015-2016 winter season against Coastal Georgia College on Friday, Nov. 13.

The team — comprised solely of freshmen and sophomores with the exception of one junior transfer — has endured a grueling three month preseason and are antsy to begin regular season play.

With up to two practices a day and the additional lifting sessions, freshman Amanda Thompson said the preseason toughened the group for the upcoming regular season.

She said that the sprinting sequence dubbed by her and her teammates “the gauntlet,” which requires them to continually sprint — with minimal rest — for over 30 minutes, is one of the more rigorous activities.

If the girls put their hands on their knees or skipped reps, they were required to make it up either after practice or on another day, and the sprints they had missed were doubled.

Putting their hands on their knees, or doubling over, was something they were not allowed to do.

“We couldn’t show weakness,” sophomore Kayla Potts said.

Coach Susan Gardner and her assistant coaches pushed the girls physically and mentally.

“Coach Gardner is brutally honest. About everything. I appreciate that,” Thompson said.  

Though their preseason schedule served as a wake up call to how hard they will need to work to take the Southern Conference Championship, they are excited to start the season.

“I’m anxious. I’m excited,” said sophomore Kahlia Lawrence, who was named SoCon Freshman of the Year in 2015.

The SoCon preseason poll predicted a  fifth place finish for the Bears. But the young team said they can, and will, exceed those expectations.

Freshman Callie Hackett said their youth could potentially be used to their advantage.

“I’m excited to see how this young team can surprise people. Teams are going to underestimate us,” Hackett said.

Sophomore Brittnee Broadway listed the top teams to watch out for: Chattanooga, ETSU, Furman and Samford.

“We never underestimate a team,” she said.

The graduated seniors from the 2015 team made up 80 percent of the points scored.

This year’s youthful string of players will definitely have an impact on other teams’ mental game, Lawrence said.

“We’re young and relatively inexperienced. That’s a mental aspect, I think. I feel like there could be times when we get down, and it could get hard to pick back up,” Lawrence said. “But we’ll fight for it.”

When asked if the freshmen are able to replace the four lost seniors from 2015, sophomore Sydni Means said, “Heck yeah they are.”

Hackett agreed that her fellow freshmen are ready.

“I think we’ll step up. We’ll have to work for it,” Hackett said.

Though these athletes have only been together for four months, they already feel like family with one another. Compared to last year, Potts said, the chemistry is more supportive.

“Nobody really tells us what to do. We’re not all on the same level because obviously Kahlia and Alex got playing time last year, but other than that, they’re not saying ‘you gotta do this, you gotta do that.’ Everyone helps each other,” Potts said.

One persistent challenge that the team will have to compensate for is their lack of height. The freshman class has brought passion, but not inches.

When asked if this could possibly hold them back from competing with the top teams, Lawrence was adamant that it would not.

“Nah, we got heart,” she said.