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The Maryland Women’s Basketball program has been a model of consistency over the last decade.  Since winning the 2006 National Championship, coach Brenda Frese’s Terps have advanced to a pair of Final Fours and have made the NCAA Tournament in ten of eleven seasons all while getting accustomed to as well as dominating a new conference (a 58-3 mark and three Big Ten Tournament championships don’t lie).  However, the theory of “Maryland doesn’t rebuild, it reloads” will be tested this winter.  The Terps graduated a pair of All-Americans in Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones while also losing National Freshman of the Year Destiny Slocum to transfer.  The projected depth will take a hit as well, as three reserves also left the program.  The lack of experience and roster size (nine until transfer Eleanna Christinaki becomes eligible December 20th) reminds one of the 2009-10 season that ended in the WNIT.

Returning are a pair of starters who were complimentary pieces last winter:  senior Kristin Confroy and sophomore Kaila Charles.  Charles came in as a freshman and started as the “fourth guard”, finishing second on the team in rebounding.  “Kaila is one of our dominant leaders,” coach Brenda Frese said, “she wants the ball and wants the pressure.  You see how explosive she is-she’s a matchup nightmare from that wing-forward position.”  Charles was voted to the Preseason All-Big Ten team.  Confroy brings 60 career starts back to a team that doesn’t have a lot of experience, and hopes to provide wisdom to a young squad.  “I’ve been to a Final Four. I’ve seen what doesn’t work in our early departures from the last couple tournaments,” Confroy said, “(I hope to) share that with them and hopefully make that so we don’t have to learn those lessons the hard way.”  On the court, Confroy also will provide production from the perimeter:  the guard ranked tenth in the Big Ten in three-point shooting last winter.

Getting Charles and Confroy the ball with be a pair of point guards:  to start the season the offense will be in the hands of sophomore Sarah Myers and freshman Channise Lewis.  The six-foot-one Myers brings added rebounding for a team that’s playing a four-guard lineup, while Lewis is expected to add the spark similar to previous freshmen who have played the point for coach Brenda Frese:  Kristi Toliver, Chloe Pavlech, Lexie Brown and Destiny Slocum each came into College Park and excelled running the offense their first winter on campus.

 

Up front the Terps plan to rely on junior Brianna Fraser and sophomore Stephanie Jones.  Each notched a double-double in the Terps’ season-opening win over Albany Friday night.  “Big things for Brianna Fraser,” coach Frese said, “she has worked extremely hard and when she puts her mindset in the right direction and plays at the highest level she can’t be stopped.”  One key as the team gets into Big Ten play for Fraser will be staying out of foul trouble; the forward from Brooklyn fouled out opening night against the Great Danes.  Stephanie Jones is the younger sister of Brionna, and while she doesn’t have the former Terp’s ridiculously sick collection of low-post moves she appears to be the athletic forward (Laura Harper, Alyssa Thomas) that Maryland teams in the past have needed en route to deep NCAA runs.  Stephanie feels the team’s participation in the World University Games in Taiwan will help. “We were able to grow a lot as a team because we had all of those early practices and play together in Taiwan.  Just to get a snapshot of how it was going to be (playing together) for the rest of the year, so I think we really grew as a team over there.”

They’ll need that cohesiveness before conference play tips off December 28th against Illinois as the schedule begins with a bang.  After losing to defending National Champion South Carolina 94-86, Maryland visits perennial power UConn Sunday, November 19th.. “I think in all my years here probably our toughest non-conference schedule we’ve ever had.  We’re gonna know where we are early, which will prepare us for conference schedule and the postseason,” coach Frese said,”To be the best you’ve got to play the best, and so we’re excited about the games on our schedule.”  The Gamecocks come to College Park Monday, November 13th.  While we’ll learn a lot about this team over the first month of the schedule, we won’t find out if this is a rebuilding or reloading season until the Big Ten Battles of the new year.  Ohio State is the preseason favorite and is the only school to beat the Terps since they joined the conference.  ESPN.COM’s projection has seven schools from Big Ten advancing to the NCAA Tournament.  Maryland is one of them–for now.

 

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