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Nov. 1, 2004

Virginia’s Ready to Explode in 2005

by Cathy Bongiovi Stewart

After missing a trip last season to the prestigious NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years, the Virginia Cavaliers are determined to compete for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and an NCAA Tournament berth in 2005. With the additions of Miami and Virginia Tech to the conference this season, the competition will only be tougher.

Guided by five seniors, UVa returns eight upperclassmen, including three starters. The Virginia roster also has one junior, two sophomores, and three highly-touted freshmen.

Guard LaTonya Blue, a three-year starter, was named the team’s Cavalier of the Year and Best Defensive Player last season for the second consecutive year. A three-time All-ACC honoree, the 5-11 senior from Baltimore, Md., looks to lead Virginia offensively and defensively during her final collegiate season.

“LaTonya is one of the best combo guards in the country and that will be evident from tip-off this season,” said head coach Debbie Ryan. “She has prepared herself to give us more scoring both inside and out, and her mid-range game will be tough to defend. Blue is a defensive stopper who is invaluable to this program.”

Three-time All-ACC honoree Brandi Teamer also returns as a veteran player. The 6-2 forward from Joliet, Ill., will look to capitalize on her Virginia career that garnered her ACC Rookie of the Year honors during her inaugural season.

“I think Brandi is in the best condition of her career and should be ready to anchor us inside,” Ryan said. “Brandi can be a beast on the boards and score from inside and out. It’s important that Brandi be consistent and strong down the stretch. Brandi is ready to lead us back to the NCAA Tournament.”

Walk-on Kate Kreager was instrumental in shaping last year’s squad. An Academic All-ACC honoree, the 6-3 forward from Oak Hill, Va., worked her way into the starting line-up. Additionally, she became the first Cavalier to be named a team captain by her peers before every donning a Virginia uniform. Once again, Kreager will provide strong skills in the post while providing leadership off the court.

“Kate was a steady force in the post last season and was often a difference maker as a leader,” Ryan added. “We are counting on Kate putting consistent numbers on the board and providing good leadership throughout the season. She will help us go a long way come tournament time.”

Another Cavalier who worked hard to join the starting line-up a year ago is senior Jocelyn Logan-Friend. Named the team’s Most Improved Player, the 6-1 forward from Cheverly, Md., was UVa’s top shot blocker. She intends to pick up where she left off last season.

“Jocelyn is a defensive stopper inside for us,” Ryan said. “She has developed into a scorer over the past two seasons and has worked hard to be an even better offensive force inside. Jocelyn’s game has improved each year, and I think this will be her best year in a Cavalier uniform.”

Rounding out the senior class is 6-4 senior Lynette O’Reggio. The Bowie, Md., native saw limited action last fall before taking the spring semester off from basketball. O’Reggio will look for more playing time during her senior season.

“Lynette, coming off a semester away, is going to be ready to compete for playing time in the low post position,” Ryan said. “She worked hard this summer and was here all summer long. She dedicated herself to being in better condition. She’s also ready to take off.”

The lone junior on this year’s squad, Tiffany Sardin provided much needed leadership on and off the court last season. The 6-1 forward from Chicago, Ill., was a co-captain along with Kreager. Her dedication to the team and to the game will pay off this season.

“No one has worked harder on her game than Tiffany this off-season,” Ryan said. “She can play multiple positions and gives us a big guard who can slash and post up. She has an excellent mid-range game. We will lean heavily on Tiffany to give us more scoring.”

Returning for her second season is sophomore Brenna McGuire. A starter in 12 games as a true frosh, the 5-11 guard from Winchester, Mass., launched 31 three-point buckets last season. Named the Best Player in Practice, McGuire will lead the long distance shooters this season.

“Brenna is a sharpshooter who can bury shots under pressure,” Ryan added. “She has developed a nice mid-range game, and we will really rely on her for scoring.”

Fellow sophomore Siedah Williams looks for a starting nod. The 6-2 center from Cleveland, Ohio, was named the team’s Rookie of the Year last season. After seeing action in 29 games, Williams is ready to take on a starting role.

“Siedah proved last year that she is a strong inside player with good range away from the basket and the defensive skills of a guard,” Ryan said. “She has worked hard in the off-season to be more consistent this year, and that will help us tremendously.”

Joining the Cavaliers this season are prep All-Americans. Takisha Granberry, a 5-11 guard from Charlotte, N.C., averaged 16.8 points per game in high school. A multi-tasker, Granberry looks to add to UVa’s guard strength.

“Takisha can do it all,” Ryan said. “She has the ability to slash, to shoot the three, and to score. What makes her unique is that she has great defensive skills. She’s exactly what we needed.”

Denesha Kenion, a 5-9 guard from Oxon, Md., played point guard, shooting guard and small forward in high school. She will add depth to Virginia’s shooting guards.

“Denesha is a very athletic 2-3 player who is one of the best penetrators I’ve ever seen,” Ryan said. “She will add a lot of athleticism to our team.”

Sharnee Zoll is a 5-7 guard from Marlboro, N.J. Named to the USA Women’s Junior National Team Trials during the summer, she will look to take over at point guard for the Cavaliers.

“We are very, very fortunate to get a player like Sharnee Zoll,” Ryan said. “She is the consummate point guard and the best true point guard in the country this year. Our team will become immediately better with her on it.”

The veteran-laden Cavalier squad will face tough competition throughout the season. In its season opener, UVa travels to Baton Rouge, La., for the Women’s Sports Foundation Classic, hosted by Louisiana State, a 2004 FinalFour participant. Virginia will travel to Cleveland State before returning home for three straight games.

“It’s a very difficult schedule as usual. We will always play a Top 10, Top 20 schedule,” Ryan said. “(Assistant coach) Tim Taylor’s done a great job of balancing the schedule this year with some very top competition. We have Final Four teams; we have conference champions; we have teams that are up-and-coming. So we have a lot of great balance in our schedule this year, and it should be very highly rated by the RPI.”

Following a trip to Chicago for Northwestern’s tournament in early December, the Cavaliers close out the month with four home games, including the Cavalier Classic. This year’s tourney features Albany, American, and James Madison. UVa will play all of the in-state Division I rivals this season (James Madison, Liberty, Old Dominion, Richmond, and Virginia Tech).

UVa hosts South Carolina in non-conference action on Jan. 2 before beginning the ACC slate. With its veteran squad, Virginia looks to finish strong in the ACC and to return to the NCAA Tournament.

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