Nile McNair, Contributing Writer
Despite winning the Atlantic 10 Regular Season Crown last year, women’s basketball did not earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. This season, the Rams have made their non-conference schedule harder.
“We’ve definitely increased strength of schedule, so there’s not those breaks in your schedule that allow some easy games,” coach Beth O’Boyle said. “The challenge of playing better teams is one of our toughest challenges this season.”
That new strength has shown itself throughout the early portion of this season, as the Rams are 1-4 on the road, including a loss at No. 25 USF.
“We’ve had two tough road games at Seton Hall and South Florida,” O’Boyle said. “What we’ve talked about with the team is what lessons have we learned from those games, what information did they give us and how can we use that to get better this year.”
Although the new season presents challenges, the goals for VCU have remained the same.
“Some of the team goals are to win the A-10 championship, make the NCAA tournament, and also go undefeated at home,” senior guard K.K. Tassin said.
The Rams have defended home court so far this season, winning both their games at the Siegel Center. The black and gold opened the season beating Appalachian State on Nov. 5 and East Carolina on Nov. 20.
Having won a regular season A-10 championship creates a new set of expectations for the program. Having to live up to those expectations is another challenge VCU will have to push through this season.
Within the A-10 there are some formidable opponents that the team feels will be their biggest competition en route to defending their championship.
“Fordham or Dayton,” senior guard Nyra Williams said. “Obviously Fordham because they won it last year and they’re still a good team, and Dayton also always pushes us to our limits.”
This increase in the strength of schedule has made the out-of-conference games very difficult. VCU scheduled the likes of Boston College, Cincinnati and ODU.
The game against ODU in particular is circled on the calendar for the Rams because they’re in-state rivals.
“Last year we had three chances to come up on top against ODU,” Tassin said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted, but this year we will win.”
VCU embraces the challenges the team will have to overcome this season to achieve their overall team goals. In order to do so, O’Boyle has emphasized on empowering her group of girls.
“I think we’ve really talked about that next step being that this is a program run by our players,” O’Boyle said. “It’s a players-driven culture. The players set the expectations.”