The Maryville College women’s basketball team has been chosen as the favorite to win the USA South Athletic Conference in the South Division by the preseason coaches’ polls. Ferrum College, who defeated the Scots in a 64-50 game in the conference championship, was picked as the favorite in the North Division.
After their loss to Ferrum, the Scots moved on from the conference tournament into the NCAA Tournament after earning their 20th NCAA Tournament bid in the team’s history. They lost in the first round of the tournament to the University of Texas at Tyler in Memphis, Tenn. by a score of 67-43. They ended the season with an overall record of 22-7 and a conference record of 13-3. The Lady Scots shot 42.5% from the field to score an average of 70.9 points per game, defeating opponents by a 13.9 point average margin of victory.
Head coach Darrin Travillian enters his fifth season at Maryville, with an 88-24 overall record. Travillian had this to say about the poll predictions: “I’m happy for the girls that we got those votes, but the reality is those votes don’t score one point, get one rebound or stop the other team one time.” He attributes these votes to their presence in the conference final last year, the fact that the Scots lost only two seniors opposed to Ferrum’s three, and the return of the reigning USA South Player of the Year Mackenzie Puckett.
Puckett will be a leader on and off the court this year after racking up many awards last season. She shot 51% from the field, 31% from beyond the arc and 86% from the free throw line while averaging 14.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, earning her honorable mention All-American honors by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, All-South Region First-Team by d3hoops.com, and USA South Rookie of the Year. Puckett was the 9th Lady Scot in Maryville College history to achieve All-American honors. The junior from Franklin, Tenn. returns healthy this season after playing limited minutes in the final eight games of last season due to a torn ACL.
Coach Travillian said that seeing Puckett work through her injury and give the team minutes in games where she was able was an inspiration to her teammates.
“I think that it sent the message that we had business that we wanted to finish,” Travillian said. As for this season, he said that Puckett is returning to the player she was before the injury and gaining confidence every day.
“I really want to get back to the kind of player I was last year before my knee injury and just be able to play without thinking about my knee anymore,” Puckett said.
The team returns three seniors: Alex Bond and Lauren Trent at guard and Kelsey Brown at center. Bond averaged 7.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. Three juniors return in guards Jordan Ballard and Mackenzie Puckett and center Linley Dunn. There are four returning sophomores, those being forward Mindy Brackins and guards Kelsey Persinger, Tanginique Nowlin and Lecretia Robbins.
The Lady Scots lost two starting seniors last year in point guards Lailah Farmer and Lauren Burnette, leaving a gap for other players to step up and fill. Lauren Trent, stepping up into a senior leadership role, as well as junior guards Jordan Ballard and Joanna Young are likely to fill these positions this season. “These three are manning the back court right now and they seem to be doing a good job,” Travillian said.
Six new players join the team this season, and each of them, according to Travillian, have a chance to play early on in the season. “They all bring a different skill set to the table,” Travillian said. The new additions include five freshman: post Rachel Hawn, guard Haley Talbott, forward Abby Navarro, post Lauren Biliter and guard Brittany Johnson. Junior guard Joanna Young (Woodbury, TN; Cannon County High School) joins the Scots after two years at Roane State Community College.
With only a few days left before the team begins regular season play, the Lady Scots have laid out their goals to keep up with the program’s success. “I’m optimistic about the upcoming season. I think the girls worked really hard in the weight room and in their conditioning,” Travillian said.
“We definitely want to make ourselves known nationally, and we definitely want to get to the NCAA tournament again and get our 21st banner,” Puckett said.
For the team’s three seniors, a banner this year will mean that they have been a part of the NCAA Tournament in all four years that they have played at Maryville.
“Bringing home a banner this year would be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life,” senior Alex Bond said. “I’m hoping that bringing home a fourth banner will help to keep the tradition of going to the NCAA alive in our program.”
The Lady Scots will tip off their regular season on Saturday, Nov. 15 versus Centre College at home.