The last image of the Lady Lions’ 2011-12 season captured their agony of defeat in the wake of Connecticut’s triumph in the teams’ Sweet Sixteen match-up.
It will be 223 days on Saturday, Nov. 3, since the Lions last stepped off the court. Now, redemption nears as the eighth-ranked Lions will take on the Vulcans of California (Pa.) in an exhibition game on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The new campaign features some changes as guard Zhaque Gray has graduated and the team welcomes freshman center Candice Agee and redshirt junior Dara Taylor, who transferred to the Lions from Maryland last season but couldn’t play due to NCAA transfer rules.
Though the team traveled through Europe on a three-game tour this summer, developing continuity is a continuing goal, head coach Coquese Washington said in her press conference Wednesday.
“When we went to Europe this summer, we had almost like a shortened playbook,” Washington said. “We only did a couple things because we had 10 practices, and we did those things well. Now we are expanding offensively and defensively and doing a lot more things.”
One key focus of development to watch for on Saturday falls upon Taylor. At Maryland, Taylor shined in her freshman year with 171 assists in 916 minutes and averaged 5.5 points per game, except one statistical category plagued her — turnovers.
In her freshman year, she had 147 turnovers, and her minutes per game in her sophomore year was cut down from 20.5 minutes a game to 13.7.
Washington noted Taylor’s chemistry continues to develop with her teammates, which will be crucial in how many minutes she plays and her number of turnovers.
The team has announced no set lineup.
“I kind of have an idea of who I want to start on Saturday, but we will play a lot of combinations and a lot of rotations,” Washington said.
The exhibition game also serves as a homecoming for former Penn State player and now head coach of the Vulcans, Jess Strom, who played for the Lady Lions from 2002-05. Strom couldn’t be reached for comment on her return to Happy Valley.
Washington credits Strom’s return to the strong family atmosphere that the team fosters.
“You want to stay in touch with that family,” Washington said. “I hope that speaks positively about what we do here. Kids aren’t running and screaming out the door the minute they get a chance. They love their experience and want to extend it as long as they can.”