Women's Basketball Outlook For The 2000-2001 Season
Three starters and the team’s top three scorers return from last year’s Virginia squad that claimed the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title and advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Sophomore forward Schuye LaRue, the 2000 ACC Rookie of the Year, leads the Cavaliers into the 2001 season along with senior forward Svetlana Volnaya and junior guard Telisha Quarles. This trio accounted for over half of Virginia’s scoring last season with 40.6 points per game and teamed up for 15.0 rebounds per game.
Debbie Ryan enters her 24th season as the head coach of the Virginia program with a 526-183 career record. During her illustrious career, she has averaged 22.9 wins per season. Last year, she won ACC Coach of the Year honors for the seventh time and was also named the IKON/WBCA District III Coach of the Year for guiding the Cavaliers to a 25-9 record and a first place finish in the ACC regular season.
“I am really excited about the season,” stated Ryan. “We have a great trio of players returning from that starting lineup with Schuye LaRue, Svetlana Volnaya, and Telisha Quarles. Things will revolve around the three early in the season and they will have to take some leadership responsibilities because we will have some young players that will have to play very important roles. With those three you have a great nucleus to start the season off with.”
Virginia returns a great variety of athleticism on the roster. LaRue and Volnaya, who were both selected as Kodak Honorable Mention All-Americans a year ago, return as starters in the frontcourt. One of the starting post positions will have to be filled due to the graduation of Lisa Hosac. The 6-2 forward started all 34 contests last season and averaged 8.2 points and 5.7 rebounds. “We have a number of players that will be competing for that open post position,” said Ryan. “Right now we do not know who will be rotating into that post position, but we are going to take advantage of all the players that can give us time in that position.”
Rookie sensation LaRue made an immediate impact and led the team in scoring (14.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg), the first freshman since the 1982 season to lead the team in both categories. She was also Virginia’s first freshman to be named a Kodak Honorable Mention All-American. A very smooth player, LaRue has great quickness and power in the low post which creates scoring opportunities. She is also a scoring threat from three-point range. LaRue is a Street & Smith Pre-season All-American and was selected as one of the pre-season candidates for the 2000-2001 Naismith Player of the Year Award.
“Schuye has had a terrific summer and has gotten a lot stronger,” added Ryan. “She is playing at another level and her confidence is higher than it was after she finished last season. She is very focused on taking the program to the next level.”Volnaya was also named a Kodak Honorable Mention All-American last season, after blossoming in December of last year. One of the best conditioned athletes on the team, she was the team’s second leading scorer last season, averaging 13.8 points per game and ranked seventh in the ACC in scoring.
Volnaya was also second in the ACC in three-point field goal percentage and fifth in free throw shooting. She led the Cavaliers during the season-defining 10-game winning streak a year ago by averaging 18.0 points per game during that stretch. On the defensive end, she draws the assignment of guarding the opponent’s top scorer. Her superior endurance makes her a great defender and scorer in late game situations.
“Svetlana spent some time working on her game this summer,” noted Ryan. “She has always been a very well-trained athlete and comes into this season very fit. When you put her and Schuye side-by-side it will be very tough to defend.”
Senior Dean’na Mitchelson gained a starting role in the season opener last year, ahead of freshman LaRue, and dislocated her shoulder minutes into the game. She sat out the next four weeks and never regained her starting role. A powerful forward who can muscle her way to the boards and score, Mitchelson matched or recorded career-highs in every statistical category last season. She did get to see an increase in playing time from the previous year as a back-up to LaRue, averaging 11.9 minutes per game in the Virginia frontcourt. A strong presence on the boards, she was fourth on the team in rebounds with 3.3 per game. This season, the 6-2 senior will be in the mix to replace Lisa Hosac in the starting line-up and play with LaRue. Mitchelson’s ability to muscle her way to the boards will help replace Hosac’s 5.7 boards per game last season.
“Dean’na is alot better than she was last year in terms of her shoulder that was hurt early in the season,” added Ryan. “She has been operated on and has gotten a lot stronger, and is working hard on her court game.”
Marcie Dickson played in 22 games during her freshman season. The 6-2 sophomore forward averaged 6.4 minutes, 2.3 points, and 1.6 rebounds a year ago. “Marcie has probably made the biggest strides from last year to this year in terms of that post game,” noted Ryan. “She has worked very hard this summer and it is very obvious in her game. She has extended her game to the outside a little bit and has gotten stronger and really worked on her post moves. Marcie will definitely contend for that post position.”
Elena Kravchenko returns for her senior season after playing in 32 games a year ago and starting one. The 6-10 center is the tallest female basketball player ever to play in the Virginia program. Kravchenko had 19 blocks and averaged 8.4 minutes, 3.0 points, and 1.2 rebounds last season.
“Elena is another one that has gotten a lot stronger and has worked hard on her game this summer,” stated Ryan. “I have seen some big strides in Elena during the preseason and I hope that she carries that right into the season. That will be very important for us.”
Also competing for the position will be Anna Crosswhite who returns after being red-shirted a year ago. The 6-1 forward had knee surgery during the summer of 1999 but is expected to contribute after missing last season. Crosswhite can play down low or swing out and shoot the three.
“Anna can probably play a little on the wing and a little inside,” commented Ryan. “She is a perceptive player and last year when she played on the scout team, she made it difficult for people. She has a court sense and intelligence about the game.”
Chalois Lias returns for her senior season and plays much larger than her 6-1 frame because of her great leaping ability. Last season, she played in every game and started two. Lias was second on the team in blocked shots (21) and became a defensive stopper for the Cavaliers along with Volnaya. The senior forward averaged 2.4 points and 2.2 rebounds last season.
“Chalois has made some tremendous improvement and I am hoping that she can give me help in the post,” said Ryan. “She has worked hard and I will just wait to see where she fits the best as we start the season and we will go from there. I have placed a little more pressure on her in terms of stepping up and being more of an impact player.”
Freshman Joanna Kemp from Krum, Tex., will be red-shirted for her initial collegiate season. The 6-3 forward was listed at No. 139 among prep seniors by All Star Girls Report.
The backcourt is the area of greatest concern for Virginia, as the team will enter the season searching for a starting point guard. The Cavaliers have one returning starter in the backcourt. The graduation of All-ACC Second Team selection Renee Robinson left a void at point guard. Robinson finished her final season averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game. Virginia will look for one of the incoming freshman as a replacement. Quarles can play the point, but she had a fantastic season in 2000 as the starting shooting guard. The last freshman to start at point guard for Virginia was Tora Suber in 1994 and she won ACC Rookie of the Year honors.
“The point guard position will be the biggest question for this team,” stated Ryan. “It is a huge question for me right now because Chelsea Whitaker had to have surgery during the preseason and was probably one of the top candidates for that position. I was planning to redshirt Safiya Grant because I thought having two point guards in the same class would not have been fair. She will no longer be redshirted for obvious reasons. We do have some choices, but we are not really sure about how we are going to be able to approach that position.”
Quarles, an All-ACC honors candidate, is the one returning starter in the backcourt. She is perhaps the team’s best shooter. The junior guard has a smooth stroke from long range and, a year ago, set the school record for three-point field goals made in a season (63). She benefitted greatly from Robinson’s consistency and lack of foul trouble at the point guard spot which allowed her to play the shooting guard for the entire season. Quarles responded by averaging 12.4 points per game. Against ranked opponents, she averaged 15.8 points per game.
“Telisha is a scoring threat and can hit the three,” commented Ryan. “She went to USA Basketball this summer and was very confident after her performance. I may ask Telisha to move into the point guard position for a little while depending on who learns things and how quickly that happens.”
Four freshmen guards are part of the recruiting class that was rated as the nation’s 12th best by the All Star Girls Report. Heading the list of candidates to fill the open point guard position was Whitaker from Dallas, Texas. The 5-9 guard averaged 18 points per game before suffering a knee injury that sidelined her for the second half of her senior season. She recently had surgery on both legs. Whitaker averaged 14 points and nine assists per game during her career at Dallas Skyline High School. She was rated number 76 in the Blue Star Top 100 Senior Report.
“She had compartmental syndrome in both legs and had surgery,” stated Ryan. “The recovery is a three to five week period so she will play this year, but I do not know how quickly we will get her back.”
Grant, a 5-6 guard from Bronx, N.Y., will certainly jump into the mix to fill the point guard position. She averaged 28 points and six assists as a senior for Central Park East High School. A three-time MVP of her team, she averaged 26 points per game for her prep career. “Safiya has to step up and she has done a good job in the preseason of showing me that she is a very good organizer,” said Ryan. “She has good leadership skills.”
Anna Prillaman will challenge for playing time in the backcourt. She averaged 16.0 points, five assists, and three steals as a point guard on the Midlothian High School team. The native of Midlothian, Va., became the all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,528 points and the all-time assist leader with 539. Prillaman was named Virginia’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior.
“Anna may have to play some time at the point,” stated Ryan. “She was a point guard in high school, but I would prefer to keep her on the wing because she is such a great shooter. That is her best skill so I am going to be reluctant to move her there but I need depth at the point position. She is an intelligent player with an excellent three-point shot.”
Katie Tracy, a two-sport athlete at Virginia, will add a great deal to the backcourt. A four-year starting midfielder for the nationally ranked women’s soccer team, she will not be available until the conclusion of the fall season. Tracy played in 31 games and averaged 8.7 minutes last year. She averaged 1.3 points and 0.9 rebounds and can shoot from three-point range.
“When Katie is available to us, it will not take long for her to learn things,” stressed Ryan. “It will be a big help for us when she is available. This will be a year where she can probably earn some playing time very quickly.”
Another player that will add depth to the wing position will be Kristin Ambrose. A 5-11 guard, she averaged 14.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game for her prep career at the Blake School in Minnetonka, Minn. She was ranked number 64 in the Blue Star Top 100 Senior Report. A three-time USA Today Honorable Mention All-America and a two-time Street and Smith Honorable Mention All-America, she led the Blake School to four state championship appearances, winning the title twice.
“Kristin has a strong body and does have a nice three-point shot,” added Ryan. “She is going to be somebody that we have to bring along slowly and see how she fits into the picture as we go along.”
Virginia will open the 2000-2001 season as a participant in the 16-team Preseason National Invitation Tournament, starting Nov. 10 and ending Nov. 20. The Cavaliers will host Mt. St. Mary’s on Nov. 10 in their first appearance ever in the preseason WNIT. Virginia’s possible second round opponents are George Washington or Delaware. The tournament will mark the earliest start in school history.
Seven 2000 NCAA Tournament participants comprise the Preseason WNIT field, including Louisiana Tech, Purdue, Rice, Texas, and Tulane. The event also includes National Invitation Tournament participants, Georgetown, Tennessee-Chattanooga, and Wichita State.
“We obviously have a difficult schedule with the preseason WNIT and that is going to test us very early,” noted Ryan. “There are teams in the field that are perennial powers like George Washington, Purdue, and Louisiana Tech.”
“The schedule beyond the WNIT is tough with Old Dominion, Virginia Tech, and UC-Santa Barbara. We have some tough non-conference opponents and obviously the conference has an interesting look this year.”
Virginia will open the ACC season at Wake Forest on December 9, but will jump into the heart of the league schedule with a home contest against N.C. State on January 2. “The league race will be interesting because you have teams like Georgia Tech and Florida State starting to make waves in the conference and you always have teams like N.C. State, North Carolina, and Duke,” commented Ryan.
“We are going to jump off the bridge a little quickly with a freshman point guard or a very young, inexperienced point guard. A key for us is to stay healthy throughout the year in terms of depth. I think that it will be a year where we will have to handle raised expectations and everyone knows that our biggest concern will be the point guard position. The last time that we had a freshman point guard we had a great year.”