Women's basketball looks to build on an incredible 2014-2015 season by making a run at the MAC Tournament, with sights set on a berth into the NCAA Tournament, and with talent like Cha Sweeney, Janay Morton and Chanise Baldwin, coach Tori Verdi sees realistic opportunity.
The Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball is slated to win the Mid-American Conference West division in the 2016-2017 season according to the MAC Coaches Poll. But, coach Tori Verdi plans for his team to win more than the MAC West in the upcoming campaign and prepares to do so by building on last seasons successful season.
The Eagles posted an overall record of 24-13, and boasted a MAC record 11-7, while qualifying for the MAC Tournament. At the MAC Tournament, Eastern Michigan rode point guard Cha Sweeney’s hot streak past Kent State University, the University of Toledo, the University of Akron and Ball State University. The wheels finally fell off against Ohio University in the championship round where the Eagles fell to the Bobcats by a score of 60-44.
Verdi believes his team can break new heights for the women’s basketball program and the university, setting the team goal at qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. The only way to qualify being winning the MAC Tournament.
“Obviously competing for the MAC Championship and winning the MAC Championship is our goal, you know realistically its really, really hard to do,” said Verdi. “Our goal is to win MAC Championship and get to the NCAA Tournament.”
The Eagles only lost two players in the offseason, but the team recruited plenty in the offseason including both Chanise Baldwin and Ashley Nickens. Baldwin and Nickens come to Eastern Michigan via transfer from Providence College and the University of Cincinnati respectively, and look to add some size to the roster.
Nickens must sit out a season due to NCAA transfer rules, and is being redshirted to cope with the loss of a season.
“I expect [Baldwin] her and Rachel Kehoe to split the forty minutes of game-time in the ‘five’ position,” said Verdi on the team’s new center. “She gives us a lot of scoring with her back to the basket, she has some versatility that we’re going to utilize. We’re glad that we added her to our roster.”
Besides the newcomers to the Eagles, Verdi has players on his roster from last year that look to build on their successful 2014-2015 season. The one player that is most vital to the team might just be Sweeney, who was voted to the All-MAC West team in a preseason poll.
“I think that Cha just goes about her business every single day and she tries to be the best player on the floor every single game,” said Verdi. “Cha is our catalyst and she gets us going. She’s probably the fastest player in the MAC conference with the ball in her hands.
“She’s going to create for herself, she’s going to create for everyone else,” said Verdi.
But the Eagles aren’t a one entity team, and with talent like Janay Morton and Sera Ozelci, who were integral to the teams MAC run last season, the team has a multi-faceted attack to its advantage.
“The fact that we have players like Janay Morton out on the wing, Cha can drive it and kick it too, it keeps the defense honest,” said the Eagles coach. “Janay and Cha compliment each other well, it’s kind of like the dynamic duo.”
Verdi especially expects Morton to have a break-out season based on the improvements he’s seen in the offseason, giving the Eagles a very talented guard staff.
“I’m really expecting Morton to have an unbelievable year, she’s a natural born leader and she has a scorer’s mentality,” he said. “I think we have probably the best back-court in the MAC conference.”
Eastern Michigan’s coach has very high expectations for his team, but he believes that his group of girls can accomplish the goals that have been set out for them.
“We’re going to be fast, we’re going to be fun to watch and we’re going to be furious. Our goal is to win MAC Championship, get to the ‘NC two A Tournament’ and make some noise.”