Panthers begin full practice schedule

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

If all goes according to plan, the Eastern men’s and women’s basketball teams will be the first Eastern teams to play this fall.

The women’s basketball team began its full slate of practices Wednesday as it continues preparations for the season that is scheduled to begin Nov. 25.

The team had an abbreviated practice and training schedule in place for much of this semester, but now they can really start pushing toward the season.

“It’s been since really March that we’ve had official practice, and didn’t have our spring, didn’t have a summer, had a limited fall, so I think they’re pretty excited to get out and get practicing and be able to go to 20 hours a week,” head coach Matt Bollant said.

Bollant said that having a lot of returning players this year helped during the limited practice time they had earlier in the fall, and he was pleased with how they helped the new players adapt.

“I think that’s one of the things  about having the returners, they can teach the (new players) when we’re not in the gym with them, and you can see that even today before practice is getting started, the returners are walking them through some of the defensive rotations and those things,” Bollant said. “But the freshmen have done well. They’ve certainly embraced what we’re doing, they’re hungry to get better and they’re loving it so far.”

The four freshmen on the roster are Jacqueline Maulucci, Alana Vinson, Haley Cameron and Parker Stafford, and they will be joined by some of the returners that Bollant mentioned that have been part of a drastic turnaround for the program since Bollant took over as head coach in Spring 2017.

Three of the Panther seniors, Karle Pace, Taylor Steele and Grace McRae, have been with Bollant since he came to Eastern.

“That really started since they got here,” Bollant said. “They started starting their freshmen year and have been part of the change. We wanted to go from last to first, and Taylor, Karle and Grace have all bee part of that change, coming here as freshmen and playing a lot as freshmen, seeing the growth in our program going from three wins to 11 wins to 19 wins to, we’ll see this year. We believe we can be one of the top teams in the OVC.”

Eastern finished fourth in the conference last season, going 12-6 against OVC opponents and winning seven of its last nine conference games to wrap up the regular season.

But the conference and non-conference schedules have not yet been set for the Panthers.

What is known is that the OVC will be playing 20 conference games as opposed to the 18 from the past. Bollant said that having two extra games may help assure that the OVC champions are truly the best in the conference.

“I think it’s good, I think you get more of a true champion playing two more conference games,” he said.

Bollant also said that some of the non-conference games had to be canceled, but that he and the team are taking it in stride.

“We had to cancel some other games that we had set, but that’s just part of the deal this year and I think everybody’s got to keep their knees bent,” he said.

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]