Seniors lead ASU women's basketball team
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Three of her seniors — forwards Anna Freeman, Courtney Freeman and Kelsey Sharkey — are the core players that turned the Mountaineers’ program from also-rans to regular season Southern Conference regular season champions the last two years.
They’ve also had to settle for automatic bids into the Women’s NIT since they’ve finished runner-up to Samford in the last two SoCon Tournament finals. They, and Raven Gary, who was a junior college transfer last season, have just one more chance to get to the women’s version of the Big Dance.
“I don’t think there is more of a sense of urgency. I think it’s pressure,” Vincent said. “I think it’s that fear that if we don’t get to the NCAAs, they’ll have that blot on their career. At times they’ll feel the pressure, but that’s something we have to take away from them.”
Vincent is convinced the Mountaineers can compete with anybody they play. The Mountaineers beat UNC-Wilmington and North Carolina State in the WNIT before losing to Virginia in the third round.
But the Mountaineers must be able to handle adversity in games better than they have in the past.
“We can play with anybody when it’s 70 degrees and sunny,” Vincent said. “How are we going to play when it’s 30 and ugly. We have to turn it on beginning with every second of every minute, 100 percent of 100 percent of the time.”
Appalachian State begins its season Nov. 9 at home against Lees-McRae. It’s one of just three home games the Mountaineers play until Jan. 12 when they host conference rival Western Carolina.
Appalachian State also hosts Gardner-Webb on Nov. 20 and Georgia Southern on Dec. 3. Sprinkled in the first 11 games are road games at Virginia Tech (Nov. 14), at Xavier (Nov. 30), at East Tennessee State (Dec. 18) and at West Virginia (Dec. 28).
Appalachian State also plays at Davidson on Jan. 5. Davidson, which shared the regular-season title with ASU last season, was the only team to beat the Mountaineers two times last season.
The SoCon media chose Appalachian State to win the regular-season championship, while the coaches picked Davidson. The coaches also chose the reigning SoCon Player of the Year Sophia Aleksandravicius to repeat the honor.
Both Freemans and Maryah Sydnor were named to the preseason all-conference list.
“It’s hard to say who’s right and who’s wrong,” Vincent said. “ The media said we were first and the coaches picked us No. 2, so we’ll say the coaches are right. At the conclusion of last year, they felt they were better and Sophia got the player of the year and (Davidson coach) Michelle (Savage) was the coach of the year. But even the coaches thought we were off by one (point), so it’s something that we’ll have to prove.”
Anna Freeman led Appalachian State’s offense, and the Southern Conference in scoring, with 15.4 points per game.
That was just part of her game. Her 6.7 rebounds per game was sixth in the SoCon. So did her 122 steals, which was 34 more steals than second-place Barbara Sitton from Davidson.
Freeman blocked 69 shots, which was second in the SoCon, and her 85.6 percent shooting from the foul line was second in the conference.
Courtney Freeman added 11.4 ppg. Sydnor, a freshman last year, added 10.1 points per game and started 21 games.
Gary started 16 games last season and dished out 66 assists.
Vincent said the seniors have added incentive to reach the tournament knowing it’s their last chance.
“It’s probably the first time they’ve got this monkey on their backs,” Vincent said. “They want to go to the NCAAs badly. They’ve got to believing in themselves and go out and do it.”