The Florida Tech women’s basketball team finished their preseason schedule on a high note Friday night, beating Saint Thomas University 76-57 at the Clemente Center.
Following the win, Panthers Head Coach John Reynolds discussed the 2018-2019 season ahead.
The Panthers finished last season with an overall record of 11-16, including an 8-12 record in the Sunshine State Conference. Their season ended with a 62-45 loss to Eckerd College in the quarterfinals of the SSC Tournament.
“Our biggest problem last year was chemistry,” said Reynolds. “The good thing about this group is they like each other off the court, I think that’s important. Your chemistry can’t be reserved for just when you put on practice gear, chemistry’s developed over every day of the season.”
Reynolds expects it to take most of November before this team fully comes together, and they will have to do it with a schedule that Reynolds says may be the “toughest non-conference schedule we’ve ever had.”
The Panthers will host the Florida Tech Classic on November 16 and 17, welcoming New York Institute of Technology, Flagler College and Rollins.
“We only play two non-conference games at home, and we play six on the road,” he said. “We got Texas Woman’s and Findlay the next time we go to Tampa and we’re playing Alaska-Anchorage that’s always a top-five team and Simon Fraser, that was top 10 and top 20 all year last year.”
The Alaska Anchorage and Simon Fraser games that Reynolds spoke of will take place November 23, and 24 in Anchorage, as part of the Great Alaska Shootout at the Alaska Airlines Center.
“If this non-conference schedule doesn’t get us ready to compete in non-conference play, then we should just schedule teams we can get six or seven wins out of,” said Reynolds. “I may have over-scheduled a little bit, we’ll see.”
When you combine the non-conference slate with the always tough Sunshine State Conference gauntlet that includes Tampa, Florida Southern and, Barry, among others.
“I think Southern is the clear favorite,” Reynolds said. “I think they have the two best returning players in the league (Camille Giardina and Anja Fuchs-
Florida Southern finished the 2017-2018 season 25-5, winning the conference title. As Reynolds mentioned all 10 opposing coaches chose the Mocs’ as the favorite to repeat in the conference. The Panthers were picked to finish eighth in the 11-team conference.
“It’s a long season, teams get better and teams get injuries,” said Reynolds. “I think from 2-11, you’re talking one or two possessions a game that’s gonna separate really good teams. I’m kind of excited about it, I’m kind of excited about that competition.”
It is nice to hear a coach who is entering his 32nd season talk about being excited and it helps that Reynolds has eight returning players from the 2017-2018 team coming back.
Returning players include sophomore guard Cheyenne Scott, junior forward Amanda Allen, junior guard Gudlaug Juliusdottir, senior forward Kailyn Ebb, senior guard Gracie Doane, junior forward Aniquah Swan, senior forward Michaela Gelbaugh, and senior forward Tereza Sedlakova.
The Panthers did lose DeLise Williams to graduation and she took her 12.4 points per game with her. Ebb averaged 7.7, with Sedlakova pouring in 7.3 a game. You would expect those averages to go up from those two this season.
Doane and Allen were the Panthers main threat from behind the arc and they may get some help in that department from sophomore newcomer Fanny Hakanson from Stockholm Sweden, who was 2-for-6 from deep, in Friday’s exhibition win.
“Fanny is a really good basketball player, she’s got really good court vision,” said Reynolds. “The only problem she’s having right now, is understanding that the American game is a little quicker and a little more athletic, so passes you can make in Europe aren’t getting through here. A long diagonal pass, kids are a little quicker, a little longer, and a little more athletic, they’re gonna get in that passing lane and take that away.”
Other newcomers include freshman guard Trine Drejer from Denmark, freshman guard November Morton from Clearwater, FL, and freshman forward Makyla Daniels from Augusta, GA.
When asked what goals he had for this season, as this team comes together, the message from Reynolds was simple.
“The goal is to come together in practice every day and work as hard as you can at getting better,” he said. “Then the goal is to take what we learned in practice to make the next game better.”
“Anybody that gets panicky early in the season, if you’re coaching basketball… it’s like baseball,” he continued, “It’s a marathon, you could lose two or three in a row, but you could put a string of three or four together and I think that’s the way we’re gonna address this. If you can string good practices and good games together, you’ll win more than you’ll lose.”
The Panthers open the season on November 9th and 10th with their first of three trips to Tampa this season. They will take on Claflin University on the 9th and LeMoyne-Owen College on the 10th, as part of the SSC-SIAC Challenge. The Panthers will tip at 5:00 p.m. both days.
The team will play its first home games on the 16th when they host the Florida Tech Classic, Reynolds discussed earlier. The game against New York Institute of Technology tips off at 10:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday’s game against Flagler tips at noon.
You can view the Panthers schedule here.