Women’s basketball looks to grow and improve in new season

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Julia Maenius

Women’s basketball’s guard Mikayla Woods dribbles the ball up the court against UIW last season.

Julia Maenius and Ryder Martin

The UTSA women’s basketball team will return to the court for the 2020-21 season on Wednesday, Nov. 25 after an unconventional offseason. UTSA slumped to a 6-23 overall record last season, finishing just 2-16 in Conference USA play, going 1-13 on the road and losing 15 in a row to end the season. UTSA is looking to turn a new leaf for the decade after recording three winning seasons in the 2010s.
Of the seven ‘Runners who logged at least 10 games started last season, UTSA will see five of them return to the fold this season. Leading this returning group is sophomore Mikayla Woods, last year’s breakout player named to the C-USA All-Freshman team. Woods returns after a freshman season in which she led UTSA in scoring, averaging 15 points per game, and she led the team in steals with 56 last season. Woods also led the team in scoring average and free throws made last season before suffering a season-ending injury against Charlotte late in the season.
Returning alongside Woods to man the guard positions is senior Karrington Donald, who led the team in assists last season and was third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.1 points per game. Sophomore forward Adryana Quezada also returns to the fold off the back of a season in which she was second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.4 points per game, was second on the team in field goal percentage at 49% from the field and led the team in rebounds per game with 6.1.
Where UTSA gets its scoring from is not likely to be much of a surprise this season as they will return four of their top five scorers from last season. The main problem UTSA will need to solve, however, is not where their scoring will come from, but it is whether they’ll score enough to be competitive. Last season, the UTSA offense lagged, averaging just 58.7 points per game as a team, which ranked 289th in the nation out of 348 eligible teams. Coupled with a defense that allowed 75.8 points per game, which ranked 338th in the country, UTSA was outscored by an average of 17.1 points per game, tied for seventh worst in the nation.
While UTSA is mostly set at the guard position, there will be a need for a rebuild at the forward positions because two key contributors and starters from last season, Timea Toth and Evelyn Omemmah, have graduated. In order to fill the holes left in the lineup by these departures, UTSA will have a variety of options.
Sophomore forwards Shannan Mitchell and Mandi Cooks appeared in 12 and 11 games as freshmen last season, respectively, and they may be called on to fill some of those minutes. Senior Grace Daniels, who missed all of last season after transferring for her junior season from Weatherford College, also emerges as a potential option for those minutes. Junior transfer Yuliyana Valcheva, who averaged 10.1 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game for Western Nebraska Community College prior to arriving at UTSA, could also provide a solid choice. Finally, incoming freshmen Kyleigh McGuire and Kennedy Harrell provide Head Coach Kristen Holt an opportunity to continue to introduce youth to the lineup.
UTSA will remain in Texas for the duration of the pre-conference slate, hosting Sul Ross State in the Convocation Center on Nov. 25 at 2 p.m. to begin the season, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Incarnate Word and Northwestern State. UTSA will be traveling to Huntsville to face Sam Houston State as the only out-of-town matchup preceding conference play.
C-USA has instituted a variety of scheduling measures due to COVID-19: Notably, all conference series have been moved to back-to-back dates, wherein that week’s games will be played mainly on Fridays and Saturdays at least 21 hours apart from tipoff. The reduced travel per team will allow teams to complete weekly COVID-19 testing protocols. This has effectively done away with the balanced home-and-away series pattern of past conference play, leaving the visiting team to play both games at the same venue. UTSA will be hosting Rice, Louisiana Tech, UTEP, Florida International and Charlotte before the C-USA tournament in Frisco slated for March 10-13.
UTSA is currently ranked last in the C-USA standings for the season with UTEP landing the number one position. Last season, UTSA shot a .366 field goal percentage and averaged 17.2 turnovers per game. UTSA will be utilizing the returning players to close the gap. UTSA will be looking to advance their conference ranking and secure a position at the C-USA tournament to conclude the season.
Overall, last season was rough for UTSA, but there is hope. Last season’s team was very young, and many of the key contributors from last season are back with another season of experience under their belt. While targeting a .500 record is likely the ceiling for this season’s team, this year should very much be looked at as a foundational season before a push to truly competing in C-USA next season.