NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt’s 2019-20 women’s basketball season is fast approaching – and the opportunity to make a first impression is just days away.
Head coach Stephanie White and her team will be on the Memorial Gymnasium floor at 2 p.m. Sunday for an exhibition against Palm Beach Atlantic University.
“I’m really looking to see high energy and competitive level,” White said this week at practice. “We want to see a little bit more of how we want to play in terms of our tempo and being active and aggressive on the defensive end of the floor.
“We want to be able to give a lot of players minutes and we want to be able to start to see different rotations – who we can play with whom, how long they can play together, what are some of our strengths and weaknesses with some rotations? And then to see if we can start building some consistency.”
There is cautious optimism for White’s program despite a 7-23 season a year ago and just two wins against Southeastern Conference competition. Vanderbilt has five active upperclassmen back on the roster and an influx of highly-touted freshmen expected to raise the level of Vandy’s play.
Redshirt senior Mariella Fasoula, a second team All-SEC preseason selection, will lead the way into the new campaign. The 6-foot-5 forward paced the Commodores with 15.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in 2018-19.
And Fasoula should have relatively more help this season. Junior guard Chelsie Hall (9.8 ppg, 3.3 apg), sophomore forward Brinae Alexander (9.6 ppg, 3.9 rbg) and junior forward Autumn Newby (6.7 rbg) are back. Freshmen Demi Washington and Koi Love are among the many newcomers who have joined the program.
“I think coming in they were very excited to add to what we have and to bring that extra hard work, grit and intensity that we need,” Hall said of the team’s new faces. “I think I’m just looking for us to go out there and work hard (Sunday). We’ll probably make some mistakes, it’s just working through those things. It’s our first game actually playing all together so I think we should go out there and have fun and be excited to play. I know I’m excited to play.
“I just think it’s going to be good to find some teaching points and see what we have to work on.”
White is beginning her fourth season in charge of the Commodores. The former Purdue and WNBA player has put together a challenging nonconference schedule that begins next month and includes matchups against Washington, UC Irvine, Tennessee Tech, Rutgers, Furman, Radford and the mighty Connecticut.
The Commodores will have plenty of chances to prove themselves with a group White believes can turn some heads.
“This is the most-competitive group we’ve had. We’re more athletic than we’ve ever been, we’re more versatile than we’ve ever been,” she said. “I think the challenge is now as we start to slow down, as we move into games and as we start to slow down for more teaching or adding, that our focus has to be the same and our intensity has to be the same. Part of that is being young.
“The other part of that is this is a team that likes to just play – which I love. But we’ve got to be able to execute and we’ve got to be able to play when it’s slow and it’s sluggish because there’s a lot of games where there’s not a rhythm and we’ve got to be able to play through that, too. We’ve got to be able to learn how to do that in practice.”
EXHIBITION A FAMILY AFFAIR
Sunday’s exhibition between Vanderbilt and the visiting Sailfish of Palm Beach Atlantic will be a family affair of sorts.
Vanderbilt assistant coach Gary Redus’ sister, Mainisha Redus, is the head coach of PBAU.
Palm Beach went 6-20 last season and competes in the Sunshine State Conference in the NCAA’s Division II.
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