Women’s basketball prepares for upcoming schedule

UNA senior guard Janae Lyde goes for a lay up during a preseason practice. Lyde is the only returning senior on a women’s basketball team with five sophomores and eight freshmen.

Basketball season is right around the corner, and the UNA women’s basketball team is preparing to take on a new set of challenges in the 2015-16 season.

The Gulf South Conference coaches selected the Lions, who ended last season with a record of 15-12 (12-10 in the GSC), to finish fifth in the GSC Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll.

The poll does not mean much to head coach Missy Tiber, who said it will not determine the outcome of the games.

“I’ve never put much merit in those preseason rankings,” she said. “I know we’re in the top half (of the GSC) without a doubt, and I think we’re better than that. But it’s about stepping on the court and proving it.”

UNA lost a few key players to graduation, but the Lions are returning six lettermen, including last season’s starters Janae Lyde and Shay Trent. Lyde is the only senior on a team that includes five sophomores and eight true freshmen.

The freshman class makes up a majority of Tiber’s team, and that means the majority has no collegiate playing experience. Despite that fact, she expects the newcomers to make an immediate impact.

“I think several of (the freshmen) are very talented players, but there is a lot they don’t know,” Tiber said. “I’m hoping at some point that they catch up, but right now they’re relying on skill set. We’ll probably redshirt some of them, but some are going to have to play.”

Lyde said her goal as the oldest member of the team is to guide the younger players, especially the freshmen, as they get accustomed to the game.

“Being a senior and going through the ropes for about five years now, I can be the person out there to help them,” Lyde said. “Those are the people you have to build trust with on the court in order to be successful. Me just being there, knowing what I know, helps them, too.”

With so many new Lions on the team, building team chemistry poses a challenge. The team may not be completely cohesive on the court, but off court they have blended well.

“Our program has always had a group of women that are really close,” said sophomore guard Jaclyn Heath. “The newcomers have come in right away and fit right in. Obviously, it’s going to take a while for us all to get used to playing with each other on the court, but off the court we are already like a family.”

As of now, Tiber is still unsure of who UNA’s starting five will be when the Lions step on the court in the opener. Even after the first game, the lineup card is always subject to change.

“Right now I only know two starters on the team, and that’s because of what they’ve done every single day since they’ve been here,” she said. “Things are still completely wide-open. They’re going to be like that every day. A spot is not going to be just locked down. You’re going to have to defend your spot every day, and you’re going to have to fight for a spot every day.”

The typical goals and preseason expectations of every team include a conference championship and a chance at a national title. Tiber said that remains the goal, but she prefers to take a simpler approach to winning.

“I just want to see constant performance and improvement from my team,” Tiber said. “I think if we focus on just improving individually, then the results will come. I think if we do that, then we’ll be fine.”

UNA’s season tips off on the road against Nova Southeastern Nov. 13.