Rachel Hammond guards Rachel McLeod during the Lady Flames' first official practice of the 2008-09 season, Friday evening at the Schilling Center.
Just four weeks away from the 2008-09 season opener versus VCU, the Liberty women's basketball held its first official practice, Friday evening at the Schilling Center. The practice session, which lasted approximately two and a half hours, was a success, according to 10th-year head coach Carey Green. "Overall, I was very pleased with today's practice," observed Green. "I saw a lot of promise from our younger players. Also, I feel like our veteran players have picked up right where they left off last season. They are doing well and are doing a nice job of mentoring the younger players." Appropriately, the defending Big South champion Lady Flames opened practice by working on a variety of rebounding drills for the first 12 minutes. Liberty has ranked among the nation's top five teams in rebounding margin for five seasons in a row. On paper, the Lady Flames appear to be well-prepared to continue the streak this season, as Liberty boasts seven players who stand 6-2 or taller. The team then spent a considerable amount of time running through three-on-three and four-on-four half-court situations. Throughout the numerous drills, some players were almost always matched up against one another. One such pairing consisted of senior sisters Megan and Moriah Frazee. Moriah Frazee seemed to show no ill effects of the ACL injury which prematurely ended her junior campaign. Perhaps the biggest question mark facing the 2008-09 Lady Flames is how they will replace the graduated senior guard combo of Allyson Fasnacht and Courtney Watkins. A pair of players looking to help fill their shoes, senior Rachel Hammond and junior Amber Mays, shone during the latter stages of practice. Hammond notched a steal and a buzzer-beating three-pointer on back-to-back possessions. Mays, playing for the opposing team in the five-on-five drill, then answered with a steal and deep jumper of her own. The Lady Flames will return to the practice floor Saturday, when they work out at the Vines Center from 10 a.m. until noon. Fun Facts Even an official team roster would not have helped observers of Friday's practice determine the identity of the Lady Flames' numerous new faces. Only two players--#30 Brittany Campbell and #32 Rachel McLeod—wore the correct number on their red and white practice gear. Double and even triple numbers dotted the Schilling Center hardwood, as Mays, Alexandria Bream and Megan Frazee all wore #4, freshmen Campbell and Kylee Beecher both sported #30 tops and Danika Dale, Rebecca Lightfoot and Kittery Maine each dressed in #54 jerseys. Watkins, who never missed a game during her four-year career, still can't get away from Liberty women's basketball. She is helping out the Lady Flames while continuing work on her master's degree. A pair of three-point lines now appear on the Schilling Center floor. The women's line has remained unchanged at 19 feet, nine inches and is painted in red. Exactly one foot behind the red line is a blue line, which will be the new three-point line for NCAA men's basketball games this season. Liberty Director of Athletics Jeff Barber dropped by the Schilling Center for a portion of Friday's practice. He split up his evening between observing women's basketball practice and the simultaneous men's basketball practice, taking place at the Vines Center. Both the Lady Flames and coach Ritchie McKay's men's team opened practice at the earliest time allowed by NCAA regulations, 5 p.m. Southpaw is the team mascot for the Lynchburg Hillcats, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Class A minor league club. After the 2007-08 Liberty women's basketball roster solely consisted of right-handed players, the Lady Flames now have a southpaw of their own. Mays, who came to Liberty after playing two years at State Fair Community College, is left-handed.
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