The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Great expectations

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SMU women’s basketball coach Rhonda Rompola speaks to the team during their game against Rice. KEVIN TODORA/The Daily Campus

SMU women’s basketball coach Rhonda Rompola speaks to the team during their game against Rice. KEVIN TODORA/The Daily Campus

The SMU women’s basketball team received votes in the first Preseason ESPN Coaches/USA Today poll, which acknowledges the top teams predicted to rank nationally in the 2009-2010 season.

“The votes show that we’re respected for all the work we’ve done,” head coach Rhonda Rompola said. “Now, we have to prove ourselves and show what we can do.”

SMU was one of two teams to receive votes within Conference USA, with University of Central Florida being the other. Last season, in the semifinals of the C-USA tournament, the Mustangs were defeated by the Golden Knights, 62-51.

SMU also did not have much success against the Golden Knights during the regular season, with UCF winning both meetings between the two teams for the first time in the school’s history. Previously, SMU won all four meetings between the two teams.

Nevertheless, the Mustangs’ woes against UCF did not extend to the rest of the conference, and the team finished their 2008-2009 season as the regular season C-USA champions.

In the year prior, SMU did not win the regular season championship, but instead won the conference tournament championship against The University of Texas at El Paso and advanced to the NCAA tournament where they lost in the first round.

In the last two seasons, the Mustangs have won 44 games, which is a school record. This season, the Mustangs will look to continue their strong play and come out of the season with their third straight postseason appearance since 1997-2000.

According to senior Jillian Samuels, the team’s biggest goal is to win the C-USA tournament and make it to the NCAA playoffs.

“The big dance,” as Rompola puts it.

Along the way, the girls hope to break school records and accomplish things that this program has never accomplished.

“I want to see their smiling faces after we win the tournament,” Rompola said. “I want to see them go out in style.”

However, even before the season has started, the Mustangs face a major obstacle in their bid to repeat as champions. The team will be missing an essential part as senior forward Delisha Wills will not return this season due to an ACL injury. Wills will redshirt this season and return next season for her final year.

The team now enters the season with four returning starters and three seniors. These seniors have played along side each other for four years, and have developed a strong chemistry and connection with one another. One of those seniors, Brittany Gilliam, was named the Preseason NCAA All Conference USA first team.

“Experience and leadership are irreplaceable,” Rompola said. “These seniors have both.”

Samuels attributes the team’s success to their chemistry, togetherness and team bonding on and off the court. She also said that practices are a major advantage to the team’s further achievements.

“Practices are more game-like,” Samuels said. “We are competing and pushing each other.”

The defense, which has long been the team’s strong card, has been improved and intensified even more this year.

“It’s much more intense, aggressive and quicker,” Rompola said. “Offensively, we’ve also added some different strategies to improve our play.”

The Mustangs routed Abilene Christian 74-47 on Monday, Nov. 16 in the team’s only exhibition game this season. Their regular season will begin on Friday, Nov. 13 at Moody Coliseum against Loyala Marymount at 5:30 p.m.

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