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2011-12 Women's Hoops Outlook: Part 1

October 25, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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The 2011-12 Liberty women's basketball team will attempt to win the program's 14th Big South Conference title in the last 16 seasons.

As the 2011-12 Liberty women's basketball team prepares for its season opener, Nov. 11 at UNC Greensboro, LibertyFlames.com will preview the upcoming year. Today's article provides a general overview of the 2011-12 season. Future editions will break down the Lady Flames' roster, position by position.

The Liberty women's basketball team will enter the 2011-12 season in a somewhat unfamiliar position. For only the second time in the last 15 years, the Lady Flames are not the defending Big South Conference champions.

As a result, one of Liberty's primary goals for the upcoming campaign is obviously to reclaim the conference title and get back to the NCAA Tournament. The Big South Conference coaches certainly think that objective is achievable, making the Lady Flames nearly a unanimous pick for the No. 1 spot in the conference standings.

Additionally, redshirt senior center Avery Warley was tabbed Big South Preseason Player of the Year and redshirt junior guard/forward Devon Brown joined her on the preseason all-conference squad. The talented duo headlines a roster which head coach Carey Green believes to possess a nice mixture of experience and youthfulness.

"I'm excited to see the blend of experienced, focused, talented players returning, to go along with the energy and excitement of our youthful talent," the 13th-year head coach observed. "However, it's going to take a period of time to develop the continuity and chemistry we need to reach our potential. We're at the beginning stages of a lot of work in front of us."

The Lady Flames return four starters from last year's team, including Warley, Brown, redshirt junior forward Tolu Omotola and sophomore Emily Frazier. Meanwhile, they will also add five freshmen to the mix, in point guard Reagan Miller, shooting guard Ellee Rollins and post players Katelyn Adams, Catherine Kearney and Ashley Rininger.

Green anticipates strong leadership from the team's upperclassmen and noted, "Our experienced leadership will carry us into the new horizons and challenges we have in front of us. I expect our leadership to primarily come from Avery [Warley], Devon [Brown] and the finally-healthy Brittany Campbell."

Green also expects positive contributions from the team's newcomers and expressed, "This is a very talented group of players who demonstrate strong character that will impact our team success not only now but into the future. This group is hungry, talented, possesses a high basketball IQ and consists of gifted basketball players.

"We're really excited God has brought these freshmen here," Green continued. "To see how God will use them is truly going to be a blessing."

The challenges Green referenced above will begin during the team's non-conference schedule, which features numerous NCAA and WNIT qualifiers from the 2010-11 season. Arguably the Lady Flames' toughest competition could come at the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament (Nov. 25-26). Liberty will open the tournament against 2011 NCAA Sweet 16 qualifier Oklahoma and could meet the talented host team from Vanderbilt the following day.

Liberty will also square off against some of the top teams within the Commonwealth of Virginia, including James Madison, Richmond, VCU and Virginia. All four of those squads advanced to postseason competition a year ago.

Despite the Lady Flames' projected first-place Big South Conference finish, Green knows his team will be challenged during conference play as well. Gardner-Webb is the defending Big South champion and has won 51 games in the past two seasons, Radford won at the Vines Center last year and conference tournament host High Point should have a strong team under new head coach Jennifer Hoover.

"The new coaches in our conference add a lot of excitement to this coming season," Green remarked. "They will also help add to the overall level of competition within the Big South Conference."

Despite the team entering the 2011-12 campaign in an unfamiliar role, expect the Lady Flames to remain focused on rebounding and defense, two pillars of their success over the last 15 years. Last year for example, Liberty ranked No. 2 nationally with a +12.7 rebound margin. The Lady Flames also ranked among the nation's top 20 teams in three different defensive categories.

"Our concentration is on the basic fundamentals that have proven to be successful for our program," said Green. "At the same time, we also want to recognize the uniqueness of each individual and how it would benefit the team's success."