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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The 2017-18 basketball season is upon us, and the Bryce Jordan Center will be alive with excitement Friday as both the men's and women's basketball teams will play their home openers.
With an exhibition against Cedarville as the only game experience for the Lady Lions so far, head coach Coquese Washington and the rest of the team are finally ready to play games that count.
"They're really excited to start competing and to start the season," Washington said. "It's been six weeks of practice, and they're finally excited to play against some different competition."
To say that the Lady Lions are a young team would be an understatement, as they are one of only five teams in Division I to not have a senior on the roster. While this could be seen as an obstacle for some teams without a strong leader, the Lady Lions don't view it that way at all.
""We have so many young players and new players out on the floor. Just the practice of being out there and playing was important for us," Washington said.
For Washington, developing a relationship as a team is the most important goal this weekend.
"There's a lot of things we're focusing on, and the main thing is building a tighter chemistry and camaraderie. That really only comes with experience, and you can't rush that," Washington said. "We're starting four sophomores and a junior, so the thing we have to do is develop that chemistry the more we play together."
The Lady Lions will need to rely on some of their young stars for scoring at least early in the season, as the team is without both of its leading scorers from 2016-17. Leading scorer Teniya Page is out with an injury, while Lindsey Spann was lost to transfer.
Page will be back eventually, and when she returns, the Lady Lions will get back 19.9 points per game and a back-to-back preseason All-Big Ten selection. Even though she can't be on the floor, she is still making her voice heard.
"Even though she wasn't out there playing, we would still hear her yelling from the bench," Jaida Travascio-Green said. "From an overall leadership standpoint, it still felt like she was out there with us."
In the meantime, this has opened the door for true sophomore Travascio-Green and redshirt sophomore Amari Carter to take up leadership on the team, and they have been more than ready to assume those roles so far.
Travascio-Green especially has learned to adjust her game and add more moves to her arsenal. She is looking to impose her will as a scorer after being mostly a perimeter player a year ago.
"This summer, I got stronger and I figured out how to take different shots other than 3's," Travascio-Green said. "I know that my teammates look at me to score the ball. It's nice to know that my teammates trust me to take those critical shots, and I take it upon myself to make them."
Travascio-Green stressed the importance of getting an exhibition game under the belt as well, allowing the Lady Lions to put into action what they worked on in practice, even though they strayed away from execution at times. But that's all part of playing in an exhibition to her, and she looks forward to playing at a high level on a more consistent basis over the two games this weekend.
"We worked on being more disciplined and doing what we know," Travascio-Green said. "A lot of the exhibition was us getting out of what we had practiced. Getting back to that was really what we practiced all week."
While Carter is also young for playing standards, she understands the importance she has on the team as the starting point guard and the impact she will have especially on the freshmen.
"I feel young too, it's my second season playing," Carter said. "There's a lot of things I still have to learn, I have to learn to direct the floor and get my teammates involved and be more vocal."
The Lady Lions take on Siena and Drexel this weekend. They have seen both of these teams in the past, most recently taking on Drexel early last season, but these games are a completely new challenge according to Washington.
"Both of those teams are drastically different than they were last year," Washington said. "Siena, most of their star players were seniors, and they've got a number of new players. It's tough when you kind of have new players and a new look."
Tip off against Siena is set for 7 p.m. on Friday while the matchup with Drexel will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday.