After falling short a year ago, the Maryville College Women’s basketball team is coming into this season ready to compete for the USA South conference championship.
Maryville finished last season with a record of 20-8 and a third-place finish in the USA South West Division. They were defeated by Berea College, 64-60, in the USA South Athletic Conference Semifinals; Berea College eventually went on to win the championship.
“I was pleased with last season,” said head coach Darrin Travillian. “We saw promising signs from some newcomers and saw some returners move into some real leadership roles. Anytime we play we want to try and win a championship. It didn’t end that way last year, but we were definitely knocking on the door. I feel really good about what we put together and that has laid the groundwork for what we hope will be a good season for us this year.”
Going into the 2020-2021 season, Maryville is predicted to finish second in the West Division according to the USA South Coaches poll. Travillian and his assistant coach Jordan Ballard have a bevy of talented weapons on this roster.
Senior guard Klaire Varney was a first-team all-conference selection last season. Varney finished fifth in the league in scoring with 15.6 points per game. She also averaged 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4.5 steals per game. Courtney Carruthers ended her stellar freshman campaign with USA South West Division second-team honors. Carruthers averaged 14.7 ppg and shot 38.8 percent from 3.
“On the court, I bring a fast-paced game due to my knowledge of the offense, my coach’s confidence in me to lead the team, and the chemistry I have with my teammates,” Varney said. “I feel like I bring a lot of leadership to this team. I strive to be a role model who leads by example, keeps a positive attitude, gives 100% effort, and contributes to all aspects of the game.”
Travillian received a major blessing when Kelley Wandell decided to return for a fifth year. The Clinton, Tenn. native finished the year with an average of 6.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game.
Scots fans can also expect to hear the names of seniors Elsa Eckenrod and Shelby Hix. Eckenrod averaged 9.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 2.1 apg, and Hix scored 9.4 ppg while converting on half of her attempts from behind the three-point line.
“This is a veteran heavy group,” Travillian said. “We have so many seniors who understand what it takes to compete and to win. It’s also a really coachable group.”
Senior post players Hannah Jones and Holland Jerrolds will be counted on to dominate down low. Hannah Seals, Jordan Heifner, and Meredith Ward are three freshman names to be on the lookout for this season.
“This season, I want this team to finally get a ring,” Varney said. “We have been so close every single year that I have been here but have yet to succeed. This year is the best chance we have at getting one not only because of the talent that we have on our team but also because of how well we all play together. This team is a super unselfish group of girls who all have the same goal in mind.”
The Coronavirus pandemic affected the sports world across the globe and Maryville College was not an exception. In September of 2020, the Presidents of the USA South Athletic Conference met and voted unanimously to postpone all men’s and women’s basketball conference competition until the spring 2021 semester.
“When the season got suspended, I was extremely disappointed given that this could be my last year of playing basketball,” Varney said. “I was sad to think that I had already possibly played my last basketball game ever and that I would miss out on the opportunity to play with the new freshmen and help them see the way we represent Maryville College as a basketball program.”
The Presidents of the USA South Athletic Conference voted unanimously to approve the conduction of men’s and women’s basketball this spring. It’ll look different than it has in years past. The season will take place between January and March. Spectators will not be allowed at any basketball games.
According to the USA South, teams will play opponents within their division only in a double-round robin format with the exception of those in the women’s west division who will play a hybrid system. As of now the NCAA intends to conduct championships within the sports of men’s and women’s basketball, so therefore the USA South champions will receive an automatic bid to the tournament.
“Obviously we don’t know how things are going to completely shake out because of Covid, but I’d like to see us win our regular season division title,” Travillian said. “If a conference tournament can successfully be put together then we want to play for a conference championship.”