Herd to take on Rhode Island in season opener

Brad Heltzel , Reporter

The Herd will tip off its season Nov. 14, when it takes on Rhode Island in the opening round of the URI Tip-Off Tournament. The Herd will start anew this season after compiling an overall record of 11-20 with a conference mark of 3-13 last season, which resulted in a last-place finish in Conference USA.

Seven of the top nine players, in terms of minutes played, including three starters are returning from last season. The continuity of having much of the core back from last season will be the foundation for improvement this season.

The returning Herd starters are junior point guard Norrisha Victrum, senior wing player Leah Scott and senior center Chukwuka Ezeigbo. Also returning are rotational shooters AJ Johnson and McKenzie Akers who ranked second and third respectively on the team in made three-pointers last season. Also among the returnees is senior wing player Aja Sorrells and forward Chelsey Romero. Romero is a prime candidate to fill one of the departed starting positions after starting 11 of 31 games and finishing third on the team in rebounding last season.

At media day Daniel said he plans to continue to achieve a year-to-year progression after winning nine games in his first season and 12 last season. He said the team had many single possession and single digit loss games last season, and with a more experienced group this season the team may be able to close out more of those games.

“To be honest, I’m not going to try to focus on much of the big picture this year. I’m just going to focus on getting better every day and letting the results take care of themselves,” Daniel said.

Several of the players, however, have lofty expectations for this season even after last year’s last place finish.

“We are going to prove everybody wrong,” Victrum said. “I think our chemistry is a lot better, and I really think we are going to be a top three team in the conference if not number one.”

Ezeigbo said she believes the team can win the conference if the team follows Daniel’s lead to take it one game and one possession at a time and continue to focus on daily improvement. Ezeigbo said the team is trying to do its best every day to win a ring in the long run.

The team’s goals for improvement and success this season will be tested early as the Herd will have to travel for seven of its first nine games to open the season, with five of those games being true road games. The final of those first nine games will be the annual Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic rivalry game against West Virginia University at the Charleston Civic Center.

The Herd will play two non-conference home games against Brescia and Robert Morris before engaging in conference play.

The Herd will begin conference play at home Jan. 4 in a matchup with a Western Kentucky program that joined the conference from the Sun-Belt this offseason. It will then alternate between a two-game road and home series within the conference with the only exception being a three-game road trip at the start of February. The Herd will conclude its regular season with a home game against Charlotte on March 7.

Brad Heltzel can be contacted at [email protected] edu.