Richmond Times-Dispatch

VCU women just grateful to play

Rams will start season with three games in four days

- BYWAYNE EPPS JR. wepps@timesdispa­tch.com (804) 649-6442 Twitter: @ wayneeppsj­r

When VCU women’s basketball coach Beth O’Boyle stepped on the court at Arizona State’s Desert Financial Arena for her team’s Tuesday afternoon practice, she felt grateful just to be there.

“And being like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re here. And we’re going to play,’” she said Tuesday.

After all that’s occurred since her team last played, in the Atlantic 10 tournament final in Dayton, Ohio, on March 8, the Rams are finally on the cusp of their season opener.

VCU, after the start of the season was changed from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25, carved out a spot in a fourteam tipoff tournament hosted in Tempe by Arizona State. That’s after the Rams’ original event, the Cancun Challenge, was canceled and after an

Women’s college basketball

other event in Florida fell through as well.

But, in Tempe, VCU will get three games in four days to begin the season, starting Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. against Saint Mary’s.

“I don’t know that there’s any preparatio­n for coaches or players for what this year has been like,” O’Boyle said. “But I do think there’s just a genuine gratefulne­ss that we’re getting the opportunit­y to play.”

After Wednesday, VCU will have Thanksgivi­ng off before playing Arizona State at 6 p.m. Friday and Stephen F. Austin at 5 p.m. Saturday. The Saint Mary’s and Stephen F. Austin game will be livestream­ed via the VCU women’s basketball Facebook page, and the Arizona State game will be available online via a Sun Devils livestream.

VCU arrived in Tempe late Monday night, had COVID-19 testing early Tuesday morning, then practiced later in the day.

The environmen­t at Arizona State is a pseudobubb­le. The players quarantine­d in their rooms after arrival Monday night before the tests Tuesday. The team has its own floor in its hotel, and the hotel is across the street from the arena. If it eats together, that will occur outdoors. The team will test a total of four times while there.

In an unusual atmosphere — and with 20 fewer preseason practices under its belt than a typical year, O’Boyle said — VCU figures to benefit from its experience with a core that includes seniors Tera Reed, Taya Robinson (Huguenot), Sydnei Archie (St. Catherine’s), Olga Petrova and Sofya Pashigorev­a, and redshirt junior Madison Hattix-Covington.

New faces in sophomores Sam Robinson (Central Michigan transfer) and Chloe Bloom (Oklahoma transfer), as well as freshman Sarah TeBiasu, will have significan­t roles as well, O’Boyle said.

“And they’re going to be learning aswe go,” O’Boyle said of the newcomers. “But I think the leadership of Taya and Tera and Madison, I think that’s going to really help us.”

VCU, with its experience and after making the last two Atlantic 10 finals, was picked to win the A-10 in the league’s preseason poll.

Defense has been a key component of the Rams’ success the past two seasons (44-22). They were 26th in the nation in scoring defense last season, limiting opponents to 56.7 points per game. They also limited teams to 36.4% shooting from the floor, 35th in the country.

That could be tested Wednesday against Saint Mary’s in the opener, a team that was eighth nationally last year with 9.3 3-pointers per game.

“This is a team that’s going to put up points and shoot some 3s,” O’Boyle said. “And it’s going to be a really big test for us to start out.”

 ?? TIMES-DISPATCH ?? VCU coach Beth O’Boyle hopes her experience­d core of players pays off after preseason practices were cut back amid the pandemic.
TIMES-DISPATCH VCU coach Beth O’Boyle hopes her experience­d core of players pays off after preseason practices were cut back amid the pandemic.
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 ??  ?? 4 p.m. Tempe, Ariz.
4 p.m. Tempe, Ariz.

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