Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State Lady Lions led by head coach Coquese Washington met with the media Wednesday afternoon, as they get ready for the 2017-18 campaign. Coming off a strong 2016-17 that saw the Lady Lions finish 21-11 with a postseason appearance, expectations are high going into the year. Below are five things to look for this season when Penn State hits the floor.
1. Building off Momentum
For the first time in three years, the Lady Lions returned to postseason basketball last season. Penn State reached the Women's NIT third round, and gained some valuable experience from being able to compete in postseason play.
"It wet our appetite and it wet the kids' appetite for more," Washington said. "They enjoyed the experience of playing in the postseason, a lot of first time opportunities for many of them."
The Lady Lions will look to expand on the success they had last postseason and use it to understand how difficult it is to compete every night and win in the Big Ten, one of the premier conferences in the country.
2. Leaders Emerge on Young Team
With the departure of four seniors as well as second-leading scorer Lindsey Spann from last season's squad, 2017-18 provides ample opportunities for several players to solidify themselves as leaders on this team. This is a group with a young core, and a few players have an ability to take over as that commanding voice in the locker room.
The team will be without All-Big Ten guard Teniya Page to start the season, which allows several other players to gain valuable experience as leaders in nonconference play.
"We've gotten used to playing without her and it's allowed some other players to really flourish and step up. Jaida Travaiscio-Green has shown her growth on the court," Washington said. "De'Janae Boykin has really stepped up and shown how she can impact the team. Jaylen Williams has been a pleasant surprise for us and how she is playing with a lot of confidence as a junior."
The players also understand the sense of trust and accountability that has developed over the last couple of months.
"Off the court, our chemistry is really good," Boykin said. "We all get along and we all love each other. On the court, we're a young team but we're pretty smart too."
3. Freshmen Have Chance to Shine Immediately
The unique part about this current team is that there are no seniors on the roster. On one hand, that can be viewed as a positive because the team now will have two full seasons to build cohesion and develop together before the juniors graduate a year and a half from now.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the team now is finding that voice who can lead the team, which is still so very young and relatively new to the basketball world.
The freshmen in particular will have opportunities to make names for themselves as the season progresses, further helping the building process of this team.
"One of the things I've really enjoyed about coaching them so far in the limited time they've been with us has been their attention to detail and their willingness to ask questions," Washington said. "They've progressed really well because they're go-getters, they play with a lot of confidence and I think they'll be able to be impactful for us pretty early."
Sam Breen, Kamaria McDaniel and Alisia Smith were all first team all-state players last year and are expected to make an immediate impact on the court.
4. 'Cool' Carter Ready to Step Up at Point Guard
Junior Amari Carter has been a strong voice for this team since she arrived on campus, averaging 7.9 points and 29.3 minutes as the starting two-guard last year. She acknowledges the importance of her play and how it will impact the team, magnified by the fact that she will be playing the point at least for the first few games of the season.
"Personally, I want to be more consistent in my play and lead the team better," Carter said. "We had little ups and downs during a couple of games during the season last year and my play. I want to be a better scorer, make sure I hit the open teammate, knock down the easy shots when I can and make sure when we get down or too high I can help us be more well-rounded."
If there's anyone qualified to fully take over the point guard duties, it's Carter, as she spent much of last year sharing time on and off the ball with Page and Spann. Washington praised her court vision and athleticism on the court, but also her ability to be mellow and even-keeled off of it.
"I think if I had to describe [Carter], it would be 'cool'. She would be very at home in the 1940's Jazz era. She's as cool as a cucumber, just so cool."
5. Games on the Horizon
The Lady Lions begin competition this Sunday, when they take on Cedarville in an exhibition game at the Bryce Jordan Center. More than anything, the team is simply looking forward to playing people that aren't themselves or the scout team.
"I am so excited to play against teams that aren't ourselves, and actually other girls on another team," Travascio-Green said. "Since it's the first game, we don't have everything in that we did at the end of last season, but we're working on just getting the basics down and getting in what we need to be successful."
Freshman Sam Breen looks to get her career off on the right foot, and is embracing the challenge of playing at the college level and in the Big Ten.
"I don't know what to expect, but no game is going to be easy, so we can't take anything lightly coming into this season," Breen said.
After the exhibition, the Lady Lions host Siena on Nov. 10 to kick off the regular season