JMU women’s basketball is one game in to its 2019-20 season. Despite losing in the first round of the CAA tournament, the team went 29-6 and danced its way to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament semifinals last season.
JMU will be having an “end of an era” season, with the prominent senior class graduating this year and the team playing in the Convocation Center for its final season. JMU has played in the Convo since 1982, where it witnessed teams reach the NCAA Tournament, win CAA championships and make deep runs in the WNIT for many seasons.
Looking ahead to this season, JMU is looking to clinch the CAA tournament title. Last season, the team lost to Hofstra in the first round of the CAA Tournament. JMU’s ready to get its hands on a CAA Tournament championship after falling short the last few seasons.
“I think we can learn a lot from the way our seasons have ended. Both the injuries in the NCAA Tournament and also the WNIT run and the fact that we should have the confidence to play any team,” head coach Sean O’Regan said. “I think both the good and the bad have taught lessons we’ve carried through every war we’ve faced, whether it’s playing at home or playing against a really tough team like Dayton on the road.”
JMU won’t see any CAA teams until after the new year but will face strong programs such as Maryland and Virginia. The team’s first CAA opponent will be William & Mary, and the Tribe will also be the last team they’ll face leading into the postseason. With an experienced team compared to the Tribe’s fairly young team, the way both teams perform during their matchup will be a good indicator of how these teams will develop throughout this coming season.
The team will be looking to improve on some of the mistakes made last season, some of which include maintaining high-scoring quarters throughout the match. This was a problem during the CAA tournament last season, and the Dukes will be looking toward growing to reach their goal.
“We want to make sure every player is ready when their name is called,” senior guard Jackie Benitez said. “Unfortunately, we had players go down that we couldn’t execute the weight without them, so we want to make sure every player is ready for anything this season.”
The senior class for JMU has been impactful throughout its four years. Senior guard Kamiah Smalls was recently named the 2019-20 CAA Preseason Player of the Year and qualified for the 2020 Red Bull USA Basketball 3X Nationals.
Smalls will play alongside senior guard Lexie Barrier, redshirt senior center Kayla Cooper and redshirt senior guard Jackie Benitez. The five seniors have shown the determination to win the CAA Tournament title and look forward to achieving that goal this season.
“This senior group has been through some tough times and some great times,” O’Regan said. “They’ve seen so much, and those experiences combined, I think will translate into a very mature group.”
Team chemistry is one of the biggest aspects of JMU, and this season, chemistry will once again be vital to the team’s success. With only two freshmen — forward Rayne Tucker and guard Kiki Jefferson — the upperclassmen have already shown an effort in the locker room and in practices to bring in new members and include everyone in the team chemistry.
“I think that energy, rebounds, whatever I can do will help the team” Barrier said. “I love the team, and I love everyone that we’re playing with along with our crowd, so we have to give it everything we’ve got.”
Contact Madison Hricik at email@example.com. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.