Resilience. It is a quality the Longhorns have learned to identify themselves with in this year’s off-season, and with this resilience, the team has grown closer and stronger.
“We have great team chemistry,” said head coach Gail Goestenkors. “Everyone loves the game of basketball. So everyday when they show up they’re ready to play; they want to be better.”
So now the question remains, will the Longhorns be able to apply their newfound resilience and chemistry every game? The No. 17 Longhorns get their chance to prove they can tonight as they open their regular season at home against Mississippi Valley State.
“We love opening at home,” Goestenkors said. “There is a comfort level at home. It gives our crowd a chance to get a good look at the team and gives us a chance to progress.”
Texas is a youthful squad made up of six fresh faces, including freshman guard Chassidy Fussell, the only freshman featured in last Friday’s exhibition lineup. The Longhorns returned only three starters to their roster this season, Ashley Gayle, Ashleigh Fontenette and Kathleen Nash, who have proved to be leaders, both on and off the court.
“I look at all the upperclassmen, they will always help you,” Fussell said. “If you have a question, they are going to answer it. If they don’t know the answer they go to coach.”
Coping with the loss of sophomore Cokie Reed to injury, Texas was forced to find a new identity. The run-and-gun as well as fast break proved to be the squad’s new friend, as evident from their exhibition game rout of Trinity, 132-38.
“We’ve pushed the ball in transition. That’s going to be who we are,” Goestenkors said. “Some people are going to try and slow us down, but we’ve got a seven-second break that we run all the time, where you are pushing the ball, helping them get them into the mindset that we are going to look to score really early in transition.”
Freshman Anne Marie Hartung proved to be vital on both offense and defense for Texas last Friday, as she posted a game-high 26 points and 13 rebounds.
In the Longhorns’ first meeting against the Devilettes, tonight’s game will feature two squads who rely on their running game to compensate for their height.
Mississippi Valley State features junior guard Ka’Neshia Smith who boasts an impressive 545 career points along with 294 rebounds.
“I think it will be a really entertaining game because they love to run as well,” Geostenkors said. “They are very athletic. They’re short. It’s going to be a very fun game.”