Looking back on how its past two seasons ended, Maryland women’s basketball feels it could’ve gone deeper than the second round of the NCAA tournament.
But that’s where the Terps exited, cutting short campaigns that had appeared more promising. So, with the start of the 2019-20 season set to begin next week, this year’s Maryland squad is looking to break that streak and play into April. The Terps leaned heavily on star forward Kaila Charles and guard Taylor Mikesell last season, but depth and defense will be the determining factors in how far the Terps go this time around.
Coach Brenda Frese employed a full-court press defense and deep rotation in the final preseason game, showcasing her team’s length and athleticism, causing 37 turnovers and numerous fastbreak opportunities.
That style, she said, is one that can create success given this season’s talented roster if it stays disciplined and energetic. And the search for wins will begin Tuesday against Wagner.
“[Transition] is a huge focus. For us it’s always been about defend, rebound and run. Those have kind of been our trademark and scoring in transition is huge for us,” Frese said. “Our players have the ability to take it and go, it doesn’t have to just go through the point guard. It’s a fun way to play.”
In addition to Charles, guards Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller are long, energetic defenders capable of grabbing a loose ball or rebound and taking it coast-to-coast. If they get stopped going to the hoop, they could find forward Stephanie Jones rim-running for a layup. Or they could pass to Mikesell, forwards Blair Watson and Faith Masonius, or guard Sara Vujacic for a 3-pointer.
If the defense breaks down, forward Shakira Austin can mask mistakes with her elite shot-blocking ability. When the offense can’t penetrate, she’s showcased an improved offensive repertoire that teams without ample size might struggle to stop.
With three top-ranked freshmen joining a team returning all five starters from last year, the Terps are a mix of veterans and newcomers, all of whom are versatile.
“Our depth is very nice because we don’t have a drop-off at all when we start subbing,” Charles said. “I think everybody is very competitive and we keep a high level and standard when we play, so we need all these weapons to be as successful as we want them to be and go far in the tournament.”
Maryland’s still in the process of perfecting its schemes and developing chemistry, but the team believes it can compete with any opponent in the country.
The Terps garnered numerous preseason honors in the last couple weeks, most notably a No. 4 ranking in the preseason AP Top 25 poll. But Frese and her players know it means nothing if they don’t back it up.
“Any time your program can get acknowledged I think is a huge compliment. I don’t put a lot on preseason ranking because there’s a lot that can happen in between, you’ve got to stay healthy and you have to get better,” Frese said. “For us, I guess it’s a nice recognition for the program, but other than that it doesn’t really produce any wins. We’ve got to go earn them.”