Women’s hoops ready to tip off vs. UNC Pembroke

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Women’s hoops ready to tip off vs. UNC Pembroke

Lanre Badmus, Staff Writer

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New UNC Wilmington women’s basketball head coach Karen Barefoot believes her team can go all the way in 2017-18. That belief will be put to the test when the regular season officially begins on Sunday afternoon with a 2 p.m. tipoff against Division II opponent UNC Pembroke in Trask Coliseum.

The Seahawks are beginning the new season with a new lease of life with a brand-new coaching staff. Barefoot, who was previously the head coach at Old Dominion University for six seasons, joined the program in May as a replacement for previous coach Adell Harris, under whom the Seahawks struggled for five seasons. Her enthusiasm has already been a hallmark of her Seahawks squad, and tweets about the team regularly contain the hashtag, “#NewEraNewTeam”.

“I’m excited to be at home for the first regular season game, and so excited about seeing these students and fans get into it,” Barefoot said. “It is something I’ve been dreaming about since I took the job, so we’re working really, really hard, and we’re looking forward to executing for 40 minutes.”

With just one exhibition played in late October, Barefoot knows how the first game for her team will play out.

“It’s going to start with defense and with us getting after it, staying passionate on the boards, and I like the way that we can score the ball … so many players on this team can really score the ball, which means this will really be an exciting season.”

UNCW fans got a first glimpse at the Seahawks in their 81-37 exhibition against D-III Greensboro College on Oct. 29.

Senior guard Madison Raque, UNCW’s leading scorer last season and one of only two starters returning, led all scorers with 18 points. She stuffed the stat sheet with eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals, nearly garnering a double-double.

Sophomore guard Lacey Suggs added 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting to go along with seven boards and three steals, and sophomore point guard Moriah Crisp chipped in 12 points and four assists. The team’s brand of fast-paced, high energy basketball endeared itself to the Seahawk faithful.

Barefoot called the Trask crowd “the sixth man.” The positive energy in the atmosphere from that game is already carrying over, and the team’s confidence has been boosted as a result.

“They believe in themselves, the journey and this team this year, so we’re really looking forward to opening up at home in front of our awesome, passionate fans, and to be able to go out there and play as a solid team,” Barefoot said.

Redshirt senior forward Jenny DeGraaf is one of the team’s three co-captains this season, along with Raque and Suggs. She acknowledges a new height of expectation that comes along with a new coach but says the team isn’t letting that get to their heads.

“I wouldn’t say we’re really focused on the expectations that everybody else has of us,” said DeGraaf, who sat out the exhibition two weeks ago with a minor injury. “I think it’s all about us as a program and what we want to do for ourselves. We’re not worried about what outside people are saying, thinking, or doing; it’s really about us and improving every single day.”

Having transferred from Penn. State ahead of the 2015-16 campaign, DeGraaf mentioned that there is a bit of a bittersweet feeling heading into what is likely the final season opener of her basketball playing career, but says she is ready to get the new season started.

Staff Writer Lanre Badmus can be found on Twitter @LonnyBadmon . Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to uncwseahawksports@gmail.com. For video updates from The Seahawk, subscribe to our YouTube channel.