The College has two key features this season that former teams have lacked, and interestingly they both play on the Tribe’s frontline.
Freshman forwards Emily Correal and Jaclyn McKenna add both height and depth to the Tribe attack this season, ushering in a new style of play that will focus less on a constant bombardment of three-pointers and more on the inside play of senior center Tiffany Benson and the slashing ability of sophomore guard Taysha Pye, a CAA All-Rookie team selection last season.
“We don’t have the shooters anymore, and I’m waiting for everybody to figure that out,” Head Coach Debbie Taylor said. “So it’s not our first look anymore. We actually have the ability to throw the ball inside.”
An undersized and undermanned team for most of last season because of injuries, the Tribe will look to Benson, a preseason All-CAA first team selection as well as the reigning CAA defensive player of the year, to establish an inside presence this season along with Correal and McKenna.
“The size really helps us. We’ve never really had a lot of size,” Taylor said. “Tiffany Benson was our center for three years, but now we have 6’3”, 6’3” and 6’1” along the frontline.”
Sophomore guard Katherine DeHenzel returns to the starting lineup after missing last season because of injury and will combine with Pye and sophomore Janine Aldridge to form one of the youngest backcourts in the conference.
“We’re going through a little bit of a shift,” Taylor said. “We’re going to play a little bit of a faster game. We’re going to take better shots, hopefully.”
The Tribe will need all of its weapons to compete in a tough CAA conference this season. Delaware, James Madison, Old Dominion and Drexel all either return or add key contributors, slotting the College at ninth in the preseason conference poll.
Despite the low expectations from outsiders, Taylor is pleased with where her team is ranked heading into the season.
“I like that we’re going to have to fight for respect this year,” Taylor said. “But I think this group can be as good as anybody come tournament time if they keep getting better.”
Flat Hat staff writer Mike Barnes contributed reporting to this article.
Breaking down the Tribe
170: The number of offensive rebounds senior forward Tiffany Benson totaled last season, not only a school record, but also 57 more rebounds than the next best total in the CAA.
9: The College’s preseason CAA ranking.
6: The number of conference wins the Tribe accumulated last year.
19.1: The number of points then-freshman guard Taysha Pye averaged over the final 11 games of last season.
15: School records set by the College last season, including team highs in free throw attempts, blocks, turnovers and margin of victory.
In the backcourt, the Tribe expects to benefit from a young crop of players. Leading the way will be the sophomore triumvirate of Taysha Pye, Janine Aldridge and Katherine DeHenzel. Pye, a CAA All-Rookie selection, returns from a stellar freshman campaign in which she averaged 9.9 points. Aldridge provides the College’s greatest perimeter threat, as she finished second in the conference in three-point percentage last year. Additionally, the Tribe welcomes DeHenzel back from a year of inactivity due to injury and expects her to step in right away. Head Coach Debbie Taylor depends on this group to provide leadership and experience for the rest of her young team.
The College possesses two powerful weapons. Senior Tiffany Benson, the reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Year and a Preseason First Team All-CAA honoree, is widely regarded as the Tribe’s most intimidating player and a major defensive threat. Last season, Benson was the conference leader in several categories, most notably offensive rebounds. Joining Benson at forward is freshman Emily Correal. A highly touted recruit from Venetia, Pa., Correal won honorable mention All-American honors and was ESPN’s 12th best forward in the class of 2013. Both players are skilled on both ends of the court and will provide the Tribe with versatility.
Freshman Jaclyn McKenna is the College’s first “true center” in three years. McKenna, like Correal, is a highly prized recruit who hopes to make great strides in her first season with the Tribe. McKenna provided a steady inside presence in the season-opening victory over Radford for the College and will be a vital cog in the team’s success.