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Defending the Nest

Lady Cards basketball ready to defend title

LU freshman, Angel Hastings, left, and sophomore Rikiah Cowart practice inside the Montagne Center, Oct. 25, in preparation for the 2018-19 season. UP photo by Cassandra Jenkins
LU freshman, Angel Hastings, left, and sophomore Rikiah Cowart
practice inside the Montagne Center, Oct. 25, in preparation for the 2018-19 season.
UP photo by Cassandra Jenkins

LU’s women’s basketball team had a perfect conference season last year — almost. The 2017-18 squad kept their home-winning streak intact, but fell to Central Arkansas mid-season to finish with a 17-1 Southland record. After cutting the net and becoming champions, the team fell short of an NCAA appearance after losing a devastating semi-final game in the conference tournament to Nicholls, 68-80.

This year, head coach Robin Harmony said she’s feeling lucky.

“I think this year’s team is actually better than last year’s team,” she said. “The problem is that they have to play together as a team and not be selfish. There are a lot of scorers on the team, and we have to make sure we take the best shot and are working as hard as we can. It’s not talent, that’s for sure, because we have probably the best talent we have ever had. It’s all about if they are going to come together, put in the work and get the job done.

“We know that we have a lot of pressure on us, coming back from being 17-1. We lost at Central Arkansas and the feeling in the locker room was that we don’t want to have that feeling again. We are going to remind them that we don’t like that feeling, so now we want to go 18-0. It’s a tough task, but we have to set the standard to that. We want to win back-to-back championships. We want to win the regular season and we want to go to Katy, make sure we perform this year and then go to the NCAA tournament.”

Harmony said she knows that all eyes and targets will be on Lamar.

“We won two championships,” she said. “We’ve been in the top one or two for the five years I’ve been here. The only year we were an eight seed was when we had four freshmen starting, and that was Chastadie Barrs’ freshman year. But, it’s nothing we aren’t used to — it really isn’t. It’s just going out everyday, playing and getting the job done.

“We know that everyone has a target on Lamar — whether they beat us, knock us off a three-year home winning streak — to making their season and ruin ours.”

Harmony said this year’s team will defend their title with a strong defense, talented starters, a deep bench and solid leadership.

“I think that our strength will always be our defense, because we do put a lot of stress on the other team’s offense by full-court pressing,” she said. “Our strength is also our depth on the bench. We have players that, if the starters do get in foul trouble, it’s kind of not the end of the world, and we can just rotate somebody else in.

“We have senior leadership with Chastadie (Barrs) and Moe (Kinard) who are there for us. I think that Chastadie and Moe have been great leaders. Ashlan Miles is going to be a junior this year. I don’t think she really played a great sophomore year, but she is now stepping up and being very vocal.”

Along with a handful of starters and leaders, Harmony said she is excited about the new recruits and returning players who have stepped up their games.

“We know that we have two first teamers (Barrs and Kinard) and the freshman of the year returning as a sophomore (Jadyn Pimentel),” Harmony said. “The big surprise for us, is the three freshmen we recruited. We have Miya Crump going into the starting line-up as a four, Angel Hastings coming off the bench and Umaja Collins as a post player. We think that we recruited better players as freshmen to start replacing some people. We have a great team and we have the depth.

“There are some kids who returned who we also felt got better — Briana Laidler, Rika Cowart and Lola Bracy. Then, you add the three freshmen in there that nobody really saw. Angel, from San Antonio, is a top-100 guard in the nation. She blew her ACL her junior year in high school, and played her senior year and really shouldn’t have. It took us two months to get her strength back. But, she can go offensively like you wouldn’t believe. She will be a point guard and could shoot it from the parking lot, so it will extend us. She is probably our best shooter on the team.

“Miya Crump is also one of the best players that we recruited here. Offensively, she can shoot the three, she can shoot off the bounce, she can finish and she’s a 6-foot kid doing all that. She could run point guard for us if we had to — she is legit.”

Harmony said her main concerns are the players staying healthy, togetherness and winning the conference.

“We have to stay healthy,” she said. “We have to make sure we aren’t being selfish as a team. We do have a lot of great players — it’s not about ‘me’ it’s about ‘we.’ Hopefully, we can keep our team on the same page.

“We want to make sure that we hold our winning streak at home. We have some good teams coming in here. Everyone knows they are coming here to try to knock us off, so that’s one of our goals — keep winning at home and get better every day in practice.”

Harmony said that the team dynamics are close-knit, but competitive.

“I think that the team is tight,” she said. “They hang out together, but I think they are competitive, too. But, you are going to know more when you really start seeing who plays and who doesn’t, and that’s really when you start to separate the girls from the women. If you’re the kid that is nine, 10, 11, 12, you are either going to be happy with that or you want to get better and move up.”

Harmony said she is excited for a competitive non-conference that will prepare them for the season.

“We play Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Kansas State as our three big games,” she said. “They’re our money games and they are games where we want to see how we do against power-five teams. Are they going to get shell-shocked? Are they going to be able to compete? Maybe get lucky and knock somebody off? You never know.”

Harmony said this year’s squad has the skill and talent to win back-to-back championships and finally break the SLC tournament slump to make it to the NCAA tournament.

“I think that you can either be good or lucky — and we’re good, but we’ve never been lucky,” she said. “We just need to be lucky — and it’s our turn.”

The women’s basketball team will begin their campaign as they head to Lafayette, La. to take on Louisiana-Lafayette in the non-conference opener, Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Story by Cassandra Jenkins, UP editor

Category: Sports