The University of South Dakota women’s basketball program will officially begin a new era Nov. 9., as the Coyotes begin regular season play on the road against Cleveland State.
With a new coach and a roster full of new faces, the Coyotes will have a new identity on the court. Under new head coach Amy Williams, the team will look to push the ball up the floor on offense and play with intensity on defense.
Like the Coyotes, Cleveland State also favors an up-tempo style of play. Williams said the Coyotes have spent practice time preparing schemes to slow down the Vikings.
“Cleveland (State) is a fast, high-speed team so we are trying to practice at a higher pace this week. Things like, working on transition defense and stopping that dribble penetration have been apart of our game prep this week,” Williams said.
Senior guard Tempestt Wilson said the Coyotes are eager to start the season with a win.
“It means a lot to us,” Wilson said. “It’s going to set the tone on where we are at and where we need to be at the end of the season.”
Cleveland State’s Sholanda Winston could present the Coyotes with defensive issues. Winston averaged 18.3 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game in 2011.
Williams said the team has to contain Winston in order to come away with a victory.
“She can do it all. She can step back and shoot, she is great off the boards and she is the complete package,” Williams said. “If we let her get into a rhythm early, we could be in trouble.”
Besides keeping Winston bottled up on offense, Williams said the Coyotes must also keep Cleveland State off the boards.
“If we rebound well, that gives us the best chance at victory,” Williams said. “There are several things that will be big keys to winning, like not fouling and making the necessary shots, but if we hit the boards well I think we will have a good chance at winning.”
Senior guard Alexis Yackey said Friday will be the first test for a team that is still adapting to all of the changes.
“Really, half of our team was here last year and half of them are new so it’s a blend of different people,” Yackey said. “We’re doing our best to put in what we need for these first few games and as the year goes on, we’ll keep putting new stuff in and get better with what we already have.”
Despite the complete makeover, Yackey said she is ready to kick off her senior year.
“I’m looking forward to see how far we’ve come,” Yackley said. “With our preseason and all of our practice up to this point, I think we’re ready to get out under the spotlight.”