Lady Eagles open exhibition slate on Tuesday at Tennessee
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — Dean Walsh is ready for the season to start for no reason other than he'll have a healthy team for once. Through the early season work, the Carson-Newman women's basketball team has struggled to keep a full squad in their practice gear.
"We've not had 10 players full go since day one," Walsh said. "We're working our way through. It's set us back a little bit. We have to be patient with what we can do. We're trying to avoid any wear and tear injuries and play it smart. We're beat up right now."
Carson-Newman begins its exhibition schedule Tuesday night when they make the short trip to Thompson Boling Arena to face off against the Lady Vols. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
From there C-N journeys to Duke, then they'll match up with former Lady Eagle Sylvia Hatchell's North Carolina squad.
"I want us to compete and execute what we're learning," Walsh said. "These games are about having fun and playing on the biggest stages in the nation. At the same time, we're wanting to show our character and grit. It'll make us hungry for that first Division II game."
That first Division II game will be on the road on Nov. 13 against USC Aiken in the SAC/Peach Belt Conference Challenge in Greenwood, S.C. The Lady Eagles host King (Tenn.) College in their home opener on Nov. 16.
The injuries have piled up, but illnesses have taken their toll as well. Junior guard Cassie Bates (Freemont, Calif.) has spent nearly a week in the hospital recovering from multiple illnesses. Junior Zoriah Williams (Calera, Ala.) has been limited in practices as she continues to recover from a torn ACL in her right knee she suffered last season. Sophomore Kiki Locket (Flagstaff, Ariz.) has been sidelined so far with a knee injury.
Freshman Rechelle Dye (Greeneville, Tenn.) is also recovering from a knee injury and she, along with Williams, are expected to be ready for the regular season opener. Dye could even make an appearance against the Lady Vols.
In the meantime, the rest of the team is getting the extra reps. Freshman forward Shannon Depew (Newport, Tenn.) has already worked herself into the starting lineup. She'll start alongside sophomore Courdne Miles (Burlington, N.C.) in the paint.
"She (Depew) is soaking it up and is still a work in progress," Walsh said. "She has such an upside and strong base. She can shoot it, pass it and post you up. Her added strength has really showed up. You don't want to put too much pressure on a freshman, but we're really excited."
"Our first five is pretty healthy," Walsh said. "It's more about the injuries hitting our depth and that's adjusted our strategy. What it hurts the most is continuity and timing. We need to learn each other's nuances and that's been hard to do."
To help get the ladies up to game speed, Walsh has brought in an all-male practice squad to take on the Carson-Newman women in practice.
"That's going to get us back in the full throttle mode," Walsh said. "That's what the team has wanted."