Vincent sees recruiting chances in Sun Belt
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Two years after the graduation of four-year starters Anna Freeman, Courtney Freeman and Kelsey Sharkey, the Mountaineers had to rework their lineup during their final season in the Southern Conference.
Vincent preferred an up-tempo offense in the SoCon, which she saw as a league whose teams preferred a slower tempo. Going into the Mountaineers' first season in the Sun Belt Conference this winter, Vincent sees the need to change styles against a conference whose teams like to run every chance they get.
"We brought the pressing game and that's not what the Southern Conference is about," Vincent said. "What we have to do is we have to flip our style of game, because we're not going to be fast, we're not going to be the quickest teams. These teams are not going to play defense. These teams score in the 80s and 90s consistently, so we are going to have to slow our game down. That's going to be a challenge, but we look forward to that. It's going to make us broaden what we are capable of doing, I guess."
Appalachian State left the Southern Conference for a Sun Belt league that was won by Arkansas State, which finished 22-12 overall, 14-4 in the league. Western Kentucky (23-9, 13-5) was second, but leaves for Conference USA this winter.
Arkansas-Little Rock (18-12, 12-6) and Texas State (16-16, 12-6) tied for third, and Georgia State (12-19, 8-10 and Troy (12-18, 8-10) tied for fifth.
Vincent knows that the Sun Belt teams present a host of new challenges, but there are other obstacles in front of the Mountaineers. Their schedule is still not complete, and the conference games will require plane trips to get to the schools instead of bus trips, which was the norm for traveling to SoCon teams.
"The first thing that has been taken care of is all the logistics of it," Vincent said. "Where we are traveling to, how we are going to get there and the whole pattern. Right now, we don't even have our schedule. The conference is looking into putting this 11-team schedule together with all the travel. The whole thing right now is dealing with the logistics dealing with the conference."
Vincent led Appalachian State to back-to-back Southern Conference regular season championships in 2011-12 and 2012-13. Appalachian State finished in fourth place the next two seasons, including last winter, when the Mountaineers finished behind Chattanooga, Furman and Davidson.
Appalachian State leaves for the Sun Belt with Georgia Southern, but is not the only team leaving the SoCon. Davidson and Elon, which finished in a tie with App State, are also leaving the SoCon for the Atlantic-10 and Colonial Athletic Association, respectively.
Mercer and East Tennessee State were added to the SoCon and start this season, which leaves the league with nine teams.
"I think with the Southern Conference everyone feels they have to create a new identity for themselves," Vincent said. "Chatt is sitting there, but when you lose Davidson and when you lose us and Elon, that's three of your Top 4 programs that have moved on. You've got Chatt and Samford standing there and Furman has started to redevelop themselves the last couple of years."
Vincent has spent, and will spend all of July recruiting. She said one recruit has committed and others who she has offered are still making up their minds.
The coaching staff can spend two hours per week of instruction with current members of the team, according to a new NCAA rule. Vincent said once July started, her summer vacation ended.
"It's all recruiting in July," Vincent said. "We are going to have one commit. We are close with a couple of others and maybe they won't choose us, but they're close to making decisions. These kids are committing early, so you have to be on-board and ready with your feet on the ground. The kids will be here for the second sessions -- the entire team -- so we have individual workouts. July just disappears on you, no matter how you look at it. Then you hit August and you've got that week and a half when they leave summer school and school starts again. As (July 2), officially our lives are over."