ELON, N.C. – The Elon women’s basketball officially begins its Colonial Athletic Association era on Friday, Nov. 14, when it opens the season against Anderson in Alumni Gym for a 5 p.m. tip. Tickets can be purchased through the Elon Ticket Office. Admission is $10 for courtside seats, $5 for reserved seats and $3 for youth (12 and under).
Last Time Out
The Phoenix looked strong in its lone exhibition outing on Nov. 2 when Elon defeated Catawba, 92-49. The maroon and gold shot 50 percent from the field, including eight threes, and finished with points from 10 of the 12 players that saw action. Three Elon players finished in double figures with rookie Shay Burnett leading the charge with 21 points. Zora Stephenson tallied 18 points and fell just shy of the double-double with nine rebounds. Malaya Johnson, another Phoenix freshman, finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Scouting the Trojans
Anderson is seeking its first win over a Division I opponent on Friday since it knocked off Clemson, 72-65, in 2012. The Trojans went 16-14 last season and advanced to the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) semifinals after winning both the regular season and the tournament in 2013. Anderson was selected to finish sixth in the SAC this year, while guards Sierra Simpson and Lesley Woods were honored as preseason all-conference selections. All five starters from the 2013-14 season return for the Trojans, including Simpson and Woods who both averaged over 10 points per game a season ago.
Friday marks the first meeting between Elon and Anderson in women’s basketball. The Trojans are currently members of the South Atlantic Conference, which Elon was a member of from 1989-1997 before the Phoenix transition to the Division I level.
After Friday’s opener, the Phoenix remains home in Alumni Gym to welcome Navy on Sunday, Nov. 16. Tip against the Mids is set for 2 p.m.
Head Coach Connection
Anderson head coach Jimmy Garrity returns to familiar ground on Friday as the Trojans takes on the Phoenix. Garrity graduated from Elon in 1989 after earning a degree in business administration and marketing. Garrity is currently in his second season with the Trojans after 10 seasons at UNC Wilmington.
Elon in Season Openers
The Phoenix is 27-17 overall in season openers and 19-4 when opening the season in Alumni Gym. Elon began the regular season at home last year when the Phoenix defeated Winston-Salem State, 73-68. The maroon and gold has won its last five season openers that were played on its home court.
Wealth of Experience
Elon returns a very experienced group to the hard wood for the 2014-15 season. The Phoenix only lost one starter from last year, while the returning four all averaged over eight points per game. Elon also returns seven others who all saw playing time last year and four of those players earned starts throughout the season. The team is led by seniors Zora Stephenson and Sam Coffer who have both played in almost 90 games since their freshmen season. Stephenson is the team’s returning leading scorer (10.1 ppg), while Coffer led the team last year on the boards (6.3 rpg) and in blocks (42).
Head Coach Charlotte Smith
Elon head coach Charlotte Smith is in her fourth season with the Phoenix and owns a 50-44 career record. Smith led Elon to its second straight Southern Conference Tournament semifinal appearance and a 10-8 overall conference record last season.
Alumni Gym has proven to be a tough place to play for opponents under head coach Charlotte Smith. The Phoenix went 10-4 at home during the 2013-14 season and is 33-10 in the last three seasons under Smith with a winning percentage of 77 percent. The Phoenix has lost no more than four games at home in a season and outscored its opponents 980-879 on Roberston Court a year ago.
Newcomers in Name Only
While Phoenix fans will see sophomore Essence Baucom and redshirt freshman Mackenzie Darrah on the court for the first time this season, the two are hardly newcomers. Baucom was inactive last year due to the NCAA’s residence regulations for transfers and Darrah earned a medical redshirt after an injury. Neither player saw any minutes in uniform but were both integral team members at team practices and meetings throughout the 2013-14 season.
The Phoenix welcomes four new players to the team this year – Shay Burnett, Malaya Johnson, Maddie McCallie and Emily Sasser. Burnett, Johnson and Sasser are all highly touted freshmen that are expected to make an impact on the court for the maroon and gold, while McCallie, a transfer from Miami (Ohio), will remain inactive during the season due to NCAA transfer regulations.
Elon welcomes two new faces to the coaching staff this season – assistant coach Tasha Taylor and director of operations Morgan Oliver. Taylor joined the Elon staff after working in the same role at Limestone College for two years. A graduate of Clemson, Taylor played under Elon assistant and former head Tigers coach Cristy McKinney, and ranks fourth and fifth all-time in Clemson history in career assists and assists per game, respectively. Oliver arrived at Elon after serving as the head manager of the Duke women’s basketball team, during which time the Blue Devils won three ACC Tournaments and made four Elite Eight appearances.
Not only does head coach Charlotte Smith know a lot about basketball, but she also knows how to dance. Smith competed in the 2014 Dancing with the Little Pink Stars on Oct. 11, a fundraiser for local charity Little Pink Houses of Hope, as one of seven local celebrities. Smith and her partner, Elon student Anthony Amatucci, earned the event’s Best Choreography award as the two were voted the best performance of the night by the judges.
The Elon women’s basketball team was selected to finish sixth in the 2014 Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll that was released on Oct. 21. James Madison was picked to repeat as conference champion in 2015, while Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra and Towson were also selected ahead of the Phoenix. Northeastern, William & Mary, College of Charleston and UNC Wilmington round out the predicted order of finish.
Road to the CAA Championship
The 2014 Colonial Athletic Association Women’s Basketball Championship will take place in Upper Marlboro, Md., at The Show Place Arena for the fifth straight year. The tournament begins on Thursday, March 12, and concludes with the championship game on Sunday, March 15. Seeding for the tournament will be finalized on Wednesday, March 4, after all regular-season games have been completed.