PRINCESS ANNE, Md. – The University of Maryland Eastern Shore women's basketball team looks to build off last season's 8-20 (4-12 MEAC) record.
In his 10th season, UMES Women's Basketball Head Coach Fred Batchelor brings back 11 players from last season, including senior Shanyce Stewart (Mount Vernon, NY), junior Shawnee Sweeney (Chester, VA), and redshirt-sophomore Alexis Udoji (Randolph, MA).
"We are looking to build a foundation," said Batchelor. "Our team goal is to improve and build from last season while advancing in the (MEAC) tournament."
The Lady Hawks lost in the first round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament to Morgan State University, 56-49, but ended the regular-season on a high note in an overtime victory over Savannah State, 55-44. Last season, UMES was among the top defensive and rebounding teams in the conference. The team finished fourth in defensive field goal percentage (37%) while ranking second in the rebounding category (41.4), just behind Hampton (41.5). The Lady Hawks finished third in blocks per game (4.0), led by Udoji. Offensively, the team averaged 4.9 three-pointers per game, which was fourth-best in the MEAC conference last season. LOST PLAYERS The team lost four players from last season, including seniors Karona Roach and Sha-Kiyla Finney to graduation. Roach led the team in multiple offensive categories, including points (11.6), assists (2.4), and three-point percentage (32%). Defensively, Roach led the Lady Hawks in steals (1.6). Finney was among the team's top-defenders. In addition, she was third on team in points (7.6), behind Roach and Sweeney. Finney was also second on the team in total three-pointers made (34), free-throws (57), and assists (56).
"Karona (Roach) and Sha-Kiyla (Finney) are tough losses," Batchelor added. "Their leadership was so valuable. Despite losing both players, we have grown as a team and adjusted as needed."
Other notable Hawks not returning are guard Kiana Strugis and forward/center Saisha Coleman. THE BACKCOURT UMES enters the season with nine true guards, led by juniors Sweeney and Jessica Long (Fort Washington, MD).
Sweeney is the top returning scorer from last season, averaging 7.9 points per game (ppg). Sweeney also led the team in three-pointers made (46) while averaging 26.5 minutes per game (mpg), which was second on the team behind Roach (28.6).
Long finished fifth on the team in points (5.4) while averaging two assists per contests. Long was also tied for third on the team in steals (1.3).
Lone senior guard Breonna Evans (Melfa, VA) returns to the Lady Hawks after seeing action in 10 games off the bench. The two-time MEAC Commissioner's All-Academic honoree played 31 minutes in last season's opener against George Mason (11/13/12).
Sophomores TeAmber Burke (Washington, NC), Jameelah Pickard (Greensboro, NC), and Chalyse Taylor (Louisville, KY) join Evans, Long, and Sweeney in the backcourt. Last season, Burke saw action in five games, including the season-opener against George Mason where she made her first-career collegiate basket (11/13/12). Later in the season, Burke also scored two points, an assist, and steal versus Old Dominion (11/20/12). Due to an injury, Pickard saw limited action, but played in 20 games off the bench for the Lady Hawks. Pickard averaged 2.2 ppg and 1.4 rebounds per game (rpg). Taylor played in 15 contests and started two games once she recovered from a preseason injury. The Louisville-native averaged 2.7 ppg and made 12 three-point baskets, including her first- career basket versus Florida A&M (1/28/13). The three newcomers to UMES' backcourt are Mariah McCoy (Rock Hill, SC), Moengaroa Subritzky (New Zealand), and Briana Sye (Harrisburg, PA), each look to make a contribution this season.
Lone swingman freshman Briana Mack (Harrisburg, PA) brings versatility and allows her to play both, the frontcourt and backcourt. Mack looks to play make a contribution this season along with fellow freshman, McCoy, Subritzky, and Sye.
The Lady Hawks enter the season with five true frontcourt players, led by Stewart, Udoji, and Ashleigh Claybrooks (Manassas, VA). Stewart, one of two seniors on this season's team (Evans), returns to UMES in her final season. Last season, Stewart led the Hawks in rebounds (7.3), which was also eighth-best in the conference. Stewart recorded a career-high 17 boards versus North Carolina A&T (2/2/13). Udoji was among the top shot-blockers in the nation, averaging 2.6 blocks per contest. The MEAC All-Rookie honoree was the top shot-blocker in the conference and finished 19th in the nation. Last month, Udoji was named to the College Sports Madness 2013-14 MEAC Preseason Second Team All-Conference. Claybrooks averaged 7.0 ppg, which was fourth-best on the team, while posting 5.6 rpg. Last season, the Manassas-native also earned MEAC All-Rookie honors along with Udoji. Sophomores Tarayana Kelly (North Brunswick, NJ) and Taylor Thompson (Chapel Hill, NC) rounds out the frontcourt. Towards the end of last season, Kelly became a starter for the Lady Hawks. Kelly played in 25 games and started 13 contests and scored her first-career bucket against Mount St. Mary's (12/5/12). Primarily in a reserve role last season, Thompson saw action in 25 games with one start. Thompson scored her first-career basket in last season's opener versus George Mason (11/13/12).
Next Friday (11/8), the team will tip-off the new season at home against South Carolina-Upstate (USC Upstate). Afterwards, the Lady Hawks will have a three-game road trip: American (11/12); Maryland Baltimore-County (11/16); Syracuse (11/20). The Lady Hawks return home for a back-to-back home-stand against George Mason (11/23) followed by Lincoln (PA) (11/26). For December, the team will hit the road to play five consecutive non-conference games: Monmouth (12/3); Old Dominion (12/7); Oklahoma (12/15); Virginia (12/17); Mount Saint Mary's (12/21). In the same month, the Lady Hawks end the year on the road against South Carolina State (12/30) where they will begin conference play. For the New Year, UMES heads further south to play Savannah State (1/4/14) in another conference matchup. The team host Norfolk State (1/11/14), then travels to face conference rival, Howard (1/18/14).
UMES continues the road trip as they travel down south to play Bethune-Cookman (1/25/14) before coming back home for a four-game home- stand. The Lady Hawks will play their final non-conference opponent of the season against New Jersey Institute of Technology (1/29/14). In February, the team hosts three consecutive conference opponents; North Carolina A&T (2/1/14), North Carolina Central (2/3/14), and Coppin State (2/8/14). The Lady Hawks travel to play conference foe Hampton (2/10/14). Afterwards, the team will have a brief two-game home stand versus Howard (2/15/14) and Morgan State (2/17/14), respectively. Next, the Lady Hawks will travel to play Delaware State (2/22/14) and then conclude the month at home against Hampton (2/24/14). In March, the team begins on the road against Coppin State (3/1/14) followed by a trip to Norfolk State (3/3/14).
The Lady Hawks will wrap-up the regular season at home against Delaware State (3/6/14). Four days later, the Lady Hawks travel to play in the MEAC Tournament for a bid into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament.