When the Tulane’s women’s basketball team opens its season hosting UNO at 6 p.m. Friday, both teams will be on different paths.
Tulane will start the quest for its fifth straight postseason bid while UNO will open its first season as a member of the Southland Conference.
The Green Wave finished last season 24-9 overall and 11-5 in Conference USA. The team ended the year in the third round of the WNIT. However, this season will present a new challenge.
“You take every year as a new year,” said Tulane coach Lisa Stockton, who begins her 20th season. “We certainly have a talented group. Our schedule is more challenging. I don’t know if it’s going to be the number of wins. I think it’s going to have to be the quality.”
While the Green Wave will have no returning seniors on scholarship, they will have juniors Danielle Blagg, Jamie Kaplan and Tiffany Dale.
“We certainly have a lot of experience in our junior class, who’ve played a lot of minutes,” said Stockton. “Even though we don’t have any seniors, I think this is one of the more veteran teams that we’ve had in the last couple of years.”
Dale led the team with a .505 field goal percentage and an average of 6.6 rebounds per game. Kaplan led the team with 4.4 assists.
“Our greatest strength is definitely the speed we have on our team,” said Dale. “We can really get out and push in transition. A weakness would definitely be our size, but we can always make that up with our speed.”
Blagg is the team’s leading returning scorer, and she averaged 9.8 points per game last season. Tuesday, she had a health issue and was not working out with the team. She is expected to be back by the end of the month.
While she has been working out by herself, she has observed how the team has been working.
“I’ve been watching practice, and just by watching practice, I’ve noticed how well the team is meshing together,” Blagg said. “I think they’re developing a really great team chemistry.”
Stockton said Tulane has lost three players for the year, and this means Blagg’s return will certainly give the team a boost.
“Getting Danielle back is certainly key for us,” Stockton said. “She’s been a big part of what we’re doing.”
Although Tulane is seeking to build on its past accomplishments, the Privateers will be enjoying the stability of their new conference.
Last season, UNO played an independent schedule in its transition back to NCAA Division I and finished 3-23.
“It presented some stability for us and just a boost of energy, just knowing that we have a home and we have something to look forward to play for in the postseason,” said UNO head coach Keeshawn Davenport. “That was a little tough, the last two years, the girls not really having the opportunity to play in the postseason.”
The Privateers lost three starters, who were all seniors, and will have seven returning.
Davenport said one of her team’s strengths this year will be a deeper bench, which will compliment the up-tempo system she runs. Also, she said the new 10-second backcourt limit will fit well with her team’s philosophy, which is based on defense.
Last season, the Privateers scored an average of 54.3 points per game and had a .356 field goal percentage.
One of the returners is senior Amber Clay, who had a .444 field goal percentage and averaged 6.5 points per game.
“My individual goal is to make 60 to 65 percent of my shots, basically give everything I have, and do the best I can do this season,” Clay said.
Tulane will have two other home games against Southeastern Louisiana (on Monday) and McNeese State (on Nov. 19) before going on the road for the first time. UNO has its home opener against Grambling on Thursday.