The numbers may be down but the optimism remains high for the Wright State women’s basketball team under first-year coach Katrina Merriweather.
The Raiders have 12 players, and one — senior forward Antania Hayes — is unlikely to play after suffering an ACL injury in March during the Horizon League tournament.
But Merriweather is excited by what she’s seen from the group, which includes a host of unfamiliar faces with two new assistant coaches, two transfers and three incoming freshmen, during summer workouts.
“It’s been amazing, and all that credit goes to the staff that we have and the players that are here,” Merriweather said. “They’re really focused and working really hard, doing what we’re asking them to do.
“I can’t say that there’s really been a challenge,” she added. “Now there’s a transition, no question. It’s just been dealing with the kids and moving from assistant coach to head coach and everybody getting acclimated to the different responsibilities.”
In addition to not having Hayes, the Raiders have three others who have been limited as they recover from injuries, including sophomore guard Emily Vogelpohl, who averaged 10.6 points while starting 28 of the team’s 35 games last year.
“I feel like I have more experience than anyone, which is crazy because I’m only a sophomore,” said Vogelpohl, who played through a tibia plateau fracture for the final six weeks of the season.
“Last year we had a bunch of new people and we did fine, so we’re expecting to do great this year,” Vogelpohl added.
Another key returner is junior forward Lexi Smith, who played in all 35 games last year, averaging 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes.
“I think our chemistry is going to be pretty good this season based on what I’ve seen so far,” Smith said. “Since I’ve been here the longest, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure everyone feels comfortable and everyone stays on the same page.
“If we do that, I think we can be just as good or better,” she continued. “It’s all up to us. I don’t think it matters who’s been here the longest, it just depends on who wants to lead, who wants to win, who wants to work the hardest.”
The hard work and attention to detail have particularly impressed Merriweather, and it’s something a team short on numbers is going to need.
“Our numbers are short, so I think that they know the importance of being in shape and paying attention,” she said. “Their willingness to listen has been really exciting because I think they’re buying into the idea that we’re going to have to take care of those details in order for us to be successful.
“What’s going to be great about this year is we like this team, and I think that they like each other,” Merriweather added. “When you get a group that wants to be here and they’re coming together for a common goal, it just helps the atmosphere. So I’m excited.”
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