B-Ball Teams Unveil Something Old, Something New

by Abby Ferguson
Staff

As the weather is cooling down, the Transylvania basketball season is heating up. Every year the teams are a force to be reckoned with, and this year is no different.

The women are hoping to put themselves in a position to be at the top of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference once again.

“We always try to finish close to the top of our conference. We would love to win three straight conference titles,” said head coach Greg Todd.

The women see the competition before them and know that it will be tough, but they hope to compete for a top spot.

“We know every game is going to be competitive in the conference, but we expect to get better each game and hopefully win the conference tournament,” said senior guard Olivia Akridge.

Todd is hoping his four seniors, Olivia Akridge, Holly Milburn, Angel Lucas and Shayla Black, will step up and lead the team through their experience. All four are starters, and Akridge and Milburn were named returning all-conference players last season.

“We have four seniors, which is a larger group. They are very focused on having a great year,” Todd said.

The women are not only deeper on the bench, but they are strong on the defensive end and will be relying on this to help them build momentum.

“I think we are a lot deeper than last year’s team. We are also expected to be a better defensive team,” said Akridge.

“Every year as a coach you try to tweak a few things to play to the strength of your team. This should be the best defensive team we have had in several years at Transy,” said Todd.

As like every year before, the women will be counting on their first-year players to step up and contribute.

“Our freshmen are very talented,” said Todd. “They fit very well with the team and I think they will contribute a lot.”

On the men’s side of things, the team wants a top spot in the Heartland Conference and aims to be the top seed in hopes of hosting the conference tournament at Transy.

“Every year, we expect to finish in the top third in the HCAC. That enables us to get into the HCAC tournament with a shot at another trip to the NCAAs,” said head coach Brian Lane.

“This year’s freshman class includes great guys, both on and off the court,” said junior guard Chris Owens. “Brennan Bragg, Tate Cox, Ashley Hatfield, Stephen Kowolonek and Ryan Anderson bring so much energy and ability to our team. They each have a huge role on this team. They are still learning the system, but they are eager to learn and can’t wait to get the season started.”

Although the team dynamic has changed, the team’s goals and expectations have remained the same.

“Our expectations for this season are to improve every week so that we are playing ‘our’ best basketball come January, February and into March. Our goal has remained the same, and that is to bring the HCAC regular-season and tournament titles back to Transy. When you do that, you give yourself a chance to win a national championship.”

An emphasis that the team is making this year is the word “more.” From having more intensity to being more aggressive, the men are hoping to cover it all this season.

“We have emphasized ‘more.’ More intensity, playing with more effort, more physical and more aggressive; if we do that, we will certainly win more games than some expect,” said Lane.

The 2010 season has also brought some changes to the men’s schedule.

“Several of the sophomores got valuable experience last year and played in some very tough games. That was one of the reasons I put together such a tough schedule last year. We have several more home games this year so that should be a big plus for this team,” said Lane.

Even with the strength of the first-year class, Lane has already seen his upperclassmen players lead the team.

“We have usually always had several juniors and seniors playing in our top eight. This year, our upperclassmen are doing a tremendous job leading the younger players. Some of our upperclassmen may not play a lot early in the season but they are playing a significant and vital role in practice and behind the scenes,” said Lane.

Some key players are returning who Lane believes will be a presence on the court.

“Junior Chris Owens is one of our top scorers returning from last year’s team. [Sophomore] Brandon Rash will give us a tremendous inside presence and can score out on the floor. Matt Wise and Scott Bauman are key senior leaders for this year’s team,” said Lane.

Just like the women, the men are expecting to be strong defensively.

“We have really gone back and taught the fundamentals of team defense. We have shown in our preseason scrimmages that we can defend and rebound extremely well.
Now we have to carry that over to the games,” said Lane.

With many key players returning and the strength of the first-year recruiting class, the men and women hope to be atop the Heartland Conference.

Next up for the women is the Sodexho Classic this weekend. They will play Ohio Northern University at 6 p.m. on Friday and then Kalamazoo College at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

The men play at Centre College next Tuesday at 8 p.m.

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