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For the RU Women’s Basketball team, the success of their upcoming 2012-2013 season could very well be the year they capture the Big South Tournament title. They’ll have to work hard for it, though, as the hunt for the conference title is shaping up to be a true dogfight.
Last year’s team finished an even 9-9 in the Big South, but the Highlanders were knocked out of the conference tournament in the semifinals by High Point University in a 85-70 blowout. RU was hampered with injuries by the end of the long 2011-2012 season, and it definitely had a factor in ending their season one game shy of the championship.
Leading this year’s squad, as she’s done so often in the past, is senior guard Da’Naria Erwin Spencer. Erwin Spencer led all starters with 46 percent shooting from the field, and racked up 17 points per game last season. She’s been the focal point of the scoring machine that is the Highlander offense, and is regarded as one of the best perimeter defenders on the squad. In fact, Erwin Spencer has tallied 1,161 points over the past three years, and is just four points shy of being in the top ten in all-time scoring for the women’s basketball program. In order for the Highlanders to succeed this season, Erwin Spencer will have to be on her game not only with her scoring, but also by dishing out assists as she will most likely be double-teamed constantly.
Head coach Tajama Ngongba will lead the team again this season, as she’s returning for her fifth year of coaching at Radford. Ngongba won the Big South Coach of the Year award in 2011, but past accolades mean next to nothing to a team that desperately wants to reach the conference championship game. For Ngonba and the Highlanders, it’s tournament title or bust.
Radford was picked to finish in fifth place in the Big South by the Preseason Rankings, while Liberty University remains the overwhelming favorite to win the Big South title. Liberty has won the conference 15 out of the last 17 years, but the Highlanders are looking to start their own legacy in 2013.
The Highlanders continue to climb their way up the NCAA ladder by playing more high profile non-conference matchups. The 2012-2013 season will see RU play against top-line programs like Marshall University (Nov. 9), University of North Carolina (Dec. 5) and Clemson University (Dec. 16). While Radford continues to raise its profile across the country, new blood in the form of freshmen like guard Aisha Foy, center Rachael Ross and guard Diani Mason will have to learn quickly from veterans like senior guards Victoria Hamilton, Ashley Buckhannon, and Erwin Spencer if the Highlanders want to advance past the tournament semifinals in 2013.
While the Highs look to begin their own dynasty this season, they know they’ll face stiff competition from teams that are looking to cement their own legacy in 2013.