It’s the start of a new season, and the No. 18 women’s basketball team will kick off the preseason Wednesday as the Spartans look to improve on last year’s 25-9 record.
MSU will face Ferris State at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Breslin Center for the first preseason game. The Spartans finished last season with their third-best record in school history and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, before being knocked out in the second round by Maryland, 74-49.
“I haven’t been past the second round since I’ve been here,” senior guard Klarissa Bell said. “I definitely think that’s a motivator, but I mean, we just got killed that second game, we didn’t play very well, so I think that’s something we’re striving for to get past the second round and continue our journey on.”
This season, the Spartans have the highest preseason ranking since checking in at No. 10 prior to the 2009-10 season.
Despite their high ranking and last year’s success, Bell also said the team needs to take small steps in accomplishing their goal.
“First of all, we have to beat Ferris State, our first game,” Bell said. “Then just those Big Ten games. We just have to play together defensively and offensively.”
The Spartans only lost two players to graduation from last season’s squad and return five of the team’s six top scorers. They also will have three players to start the season who couldn’t play the full season because of injury or suspension.
Prior to the season, Akyah Taylor, who no longer is on the team, and junior guard Kiana Johnson were suspended nine games for receiving extra benefits. The Spartans also fought an injury bug, with redshirt freshmen guards Branndais Agee and Aerial Powers going down with season-ending leg injuries.
Agee tore her anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, just five games into the season, and Powers tore her Achilles tendon prior to the season.
“With most of the girls healthy this year, it just gives us an opportunity to play better together in practice and get the chemistry together, especially offensively,” senior forward Annalise Pickrel said.
This year, junior guard Camille Glymph, who sat out last year after transferring from Auburn University, is currently out for up to 12 weeks with stress reactions in her back.
Merchant said both will bring to the team an ability to create their own shot, something Merchant said is not as typical in the women’s game.sf
Despite bringing back a core of last year’s playing group, Merchant said the challenge will be blending in all the new players.
“It’s different than being able to say I have a veteran group,” Merchant said. “We only have one freshman, but really you’re looking at maybe three, four, and if Camille gets healthy, that’s five new kids into the mix that did not play last year that could play significant minutes. That’s a lot of kids to try to figure out how to blend them if they all get healthy.”
The Spartans also might see junior center Madison Williams return to the floor at about midseason. Williams, as Bell said, is a game changer who can change the dynamic on the team.
Since arriving at MSU, Williams has only played in three games because of three ACL tears in three years.
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