Women’s Basketball Preview: Changing the Culture

p. **__Changing the culture__**

p. When Head Coach Debbie Taylor took over the Tribe’s basketball team in 1999, she immediately got to work laying the foundation for a winning program at the College. Eight years later, Taylor’s hard work is starting to pay off. The Tribe has finished above .500 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the school’s Division I history, and it may be that the best is yet to come, as this year Taylor and her staff have shaped together a team that has all the makings of a champion.

p. “I expect us to keep growing and to move ourselves up to the top of the conference,” Taylor said. “We are one of the few teams in the conference that has four returning starters and between [seniors Kyra Kaylor and Devin James, and junior Dani Kell,] who have all started since their freshman year, we just have a tremendous amount of experience and a lot of extra depth this year that we haven’t had in the past.”

p. Kaylor, on pace to become the College’s most prolific scorer and rebounder, will look to earn her third consecutive first team All-CAA selection, while James rapidly approaches 1,000 points for her career. Kell is looking to return from a knee injury sustained last season.

p. The depth that Taylor referenced comes in the form of Tiffany Benson, who set the Tribe’s single-season blocked shots record last year, and fellow sophomores Robyn Barton, Lauren Aadland, Kelly Heath and Lindsey Moller. Freshman guards Katy Oblinger and Katherine DeHenzel will team up with junior sharpshooter Courtney Portell to run the point for the College.

p. With Kaylor and James graduating after this season, the time is now for the Tribe, and it should make for an exciting winter.
“We are looking to win the most games in school history,” Taylor said. “This is a very big year for us; we talk about it every single day.”

p. **2007-2008 Schedule**
The Tribe kicks off their season on the road at Elon University, participating in their first of two tournaments this year. Early season matchups on the road against Marquette and Kentucky, along with a trip to Hawaii over the winter holiday, will work to prepare the Tribe for a tough CAA conference schedule. Old Dominion University, picked to win the CAA, visits Williamsburg for a Sunday matinee Jan. 20. The Tribe has back-to-back road games against Old Dominion and James Madison University Feb. 10 and Feb. 14, respectively, that will prove to be the team’s biggest tests this season. The College’s final regular season game, at home against Virginia Commonwealth University, may prove vital for seeding purposes heading into the conference tournament.

**Projected Starters**

**Devin James, Senior, Guard** – James stands just six points shy of becoming the 12th player in Tribe history to reach 1,000. Will be looked upon to provide leadership and scoring from the outside, and should benefit from Kaylor and Benson’s presence in the paint.

**Courtney Portell, Junior, Guard** – With the departure of Sarah Stroh ’07, Portell will be tasked with running the point for the Tribe. A streaky shooter, the junior can provide a spark from behind the arc for the College at any moment in the game.

**Dani Kell, Junior, Forward** – A torn ACL sidelined Kell for most of last season, but she returns healthy and ready to make up for lost time. Kell’s strong shooting and precise passing will benefit the offense by drawing out defenders and opening up the post.

**Kyra Kaylor, Senior, Forward** – Kaylor enters her senior season just 101 points shy of becoming the Tribe’s all-time scoring leader. Kaylor was named to the all-CAA first team last season thanks to averages of 14.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

**Tiffany Benson, Sophomore, Forward** – Returns as a starter after setting the Tribe’s single-season blocks record a year ago. Benson will continue to mature around the basket on both ends, expanding her shot-blocking skills and developing into a threat to score for the offense.

p. **Key Bench Contributors**

p. **Robyn Barton, Sophomore, Forward** – Barton saw significant playing time as a freshman and will compete with Kell for a starting spot. Leads a pack of sophomores looking to take the next step this season.

p. **Katy Oblinger, Freshman, Guard** – Oblinger will spell Portell at the point. While reluctant to shoot the ball, superior passing and ball-handling skills will assure that Oblinger has an immediate impact.


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