The Athens Review
The No. 1 team in the nation came into their National Tournament Media Day on Wednesday at Cardinal Gym very relaxed as the defending national champions.
The TVCC Lady Cardinals have no returning players or starters from last year’s team and discussed that with members of the media Wednesday morning in preparation for the NJCAA Women’s National Tournament at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kan., which begins next Monday. They will be playing for the school’s seventh women’s national basketball championship.
This year’s tournament has 24 teams and is a single elimination tournament.
TVCC sophomore guard Krystle Henderson does not see added pressure being the No. 1 team in the nation and the No 1. seed in the tournament.
“I don’t think so,” Henderson said. “I think coming in we were coming in as an underdog team and we had a whole new coaching staff. I think we like that underdog role even though we have that No. 1 ranking. I don’t think there is any added pressure and we are just going to go out there and play our game.”
For freshman Julianne Anchling, she said the excitement is starting to build and the bullseye is definitely on their backs.
“We are really excited and the goal is to win the national title,” Anchling said. “I think it is definitely possible with this group. We are the target and I don’t feel the pressure. I just play basketball and it is like No. 1 in the country does not mean anything until you win the championship.”
The Lady Cardinals have lived by the motto of “GO HARD OR GO HOME,” this season and freshman Dominique Brooks said
“It is going to be big because we will either go hard or go home,” Brooks said. “”As long as we get out there and play hard everything should be looking good for us.”
This year’s Lady Cardinals team has no returning starters and no returning players from last year’s national championship team.
Henderson said even with that distinction, the team is up for the challenge.
“It is weird but we are up for the challenge,” Henderson said. “At the end of the day, we are going to go out and play our game. Defending champions or not, we still want the No. 1 ranking and this will be our first time winning and we still want to do that and bring it back to the community.”
First year head coach Elena Lovato inherited the team from coaches Kenya and Michael Landers last year and said she has not seen pressure from this group during the week off of the court.
“Not with this group honestly,” Lovato said. “They are pretty confident in themselves and the chemistry is brewing at just the right time. That regional tournament brought them more focus and I think they are ready to roll and this is what they have been waiting for all year.”
The point guard play of Henderson and freshman Roddricka Patton has been important for the Lady Cardinals this season.
Henderson said making it to the national tournament and she said the two guards are ready for the challenge.
“We have to be the glue for the team because when things are not going right we have to settle the team down and keep our heads on straight,” Henderson said. “We have done pretty good with it and we are going to take it as a normal game this year.”
With the possibility of four games left in their season, Anchling is looking at the ultimate prize.
“It would be great,” Anchling said. “Four games to go and then we win the championship and can cut down the nets again.”