The Tech women’s basketball team kicked off the season with their first official practice at the end of September, bringing together a squad of returners and new faces alike. The coaching drama that took place during the spring semester has not seemed to faze the existing team; the women put their heads down over the summer and into the past few months of fall to strive for better results this season. With Coach Nell Fortner at the helm, the team is primed to pursue an appearance in the NCAA tournament after finishing last season with a 17-9 record, going 7-9 in ACC play.
The season does not technically start until Nov. 5, but captains Kierra Fletcher, a junior point guard, and Francesca Pan, a senior forward, represented the team at the 2019 ACC Tipoff event at the beginning of October along with Fortner. The selected women serve as established leaders among the group of nine letter-winning returners from last season. Tech also added three players to their roster this year — sophomore transfer Sarah Bates, freshmen Nerea Hermosa Monreal and Ronni Nwora. Bates played her freshman season at UC Santa Barbara, then transferred to Tech from Kansas State and received NCAA approval for immediate eligibility in August.
In an interview with ramblinwreck.com, Fletcher said she believes that the team will be “active on defense, but not as much full court press,” a change from the way the Jackets have played over the past few years. On average during the 2018-19 season, the team scored 67.5 points per game with a .388 field goal percentage. The team also had a .303 3-point field goal percentage. Tech’s first opponent, the University of Houston, had a comparative .399 field goal percentage and .298 3-point field goal percentage, with an average of 68.2 points per game. Their team had three seniors graduate but maintained many of the same players from last year.
The Jackets play against Grambling State on Nov. 10 at McCamish Pavilion. Grambling State posted an average of 63.6 points per game with a field goal percentage of .391 and a 3 point percentage of .294. While the percentages are close to that of Tech and Houston, Grambling State’s points per game come up short in comparison to the Jackets. Additionally, Tech had 41.1 rebounds per game last season, while Grambling State had 37.2.
Tech has the benefit of a home court advantage during these first two games before heading to Athens to play Georgia on Nov. 7. The women’s team over at the University of Georgia had a significantly higher field goal percentage at .434 last season, with an average of 68.3 points per game. The team had a .304 3 point percentage, which falls in line with that of the Jackets. Returners Pan, Fletcher and junior forward Lorela Cubaj can lead the team in tipping the scale against the Bulldogs, bolstered by their teammates and Fortner’s energy.
The Jackets compete in several non-conference games and at the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas before wrapping up the early portion of their schedule in San Juan, Puerto Rico against Texas A&M and Rice at the Coqui Classic. The conference season gets underway on Dec. 29 against the University of Virginia at home. From there, the Jackets face ACC opponents until their last regular game at Clemson on March 1, before the ACC tournament.
As usual, the team hopes to progress through the championship season and the NCAA tournament — their refreshed outlook could regular season success. For a Tech team with realistic WWdreams, that could go a long way.