From freshman to redshirts to transfers, the University of Rhode Island women’s basketball team has a total of 10 new faces looking to make their mark in a Rams jersey.
Head coach Daynia La-Force, in her fourth season after coming to Rhode Island from Northeastern University, said that the quantity of new players assists the smoothness of the transition.
“It’s a pretty easy transition because they are the majority,” La-Force said. “They don’t feel like they’re on an island by themselves when it comes to learning the system and making mistakes.”
The unity amongst the new players on the team adds to the chemistry and development of the team. La-Force also recognized that there are obstacles in coaching a primarily young team.
“That’s going to be our biggest challenge to overcome,” La-Force said.“Since we have so many newcomers on the team, we have to get them to not play like newcomers.” La-Force expressed the need to get the “newness” of the season out of the way early and learn from experiences. “We have to learn our lessons fairly quickly. We can’t wait until midseason to realize we are older, wiser, and better.”
While the team may look new to fans, the youth is barely noticeable amongst the players. Redshirt sophomore Elemy Colome, in her first year of eligibility after transferring from James Madison University, acknowledged the chemistry and the smooth transition of the newcomers.
“We’re transitioning so well,” Colome said. “Our chemistry is really good. We don’t really notice who’s young or who’s not because we’re all on the same page.”
There are two freshmen La-Force predicted will play big roles on this new-look Rams team. Marta Vargas, from Lisboa, Portugal, is in line to be the starting point guard for the Rams this year. La-Force also expressed faith in Abby Streeter from New Hampshire, contributing to the offensive scheme this season.
“She’s playing with a lot of confidence, shooting the basketball well, really complementing our dribble-drive,” La Force said of Streeter. “We’re able to drive and kick it to her and she knocks down the shot.”
That being said, every group of young athletes need footsteps to follow when getting their feet wet in a program. The tenured players on the team, according to La-Force, look to be an extension of the coach in guiding the young ballers through their first year.
“They help me coach,” La-Force said. “They know what’s expected from a player’s perspective in terms of hard work and discipline and communication. They’re able to be an example to the younger players.”
Of the returning players, Charise Wilson is the only senior on the roster. She was the leading scorer last year, averaging 19.1 points per game in 22 games. Wilson will most likely be the focal point of this Rams offense, being the lone senior and a captain in her second straight year. Other returning players include juniors Jalissa Ross and Dina Motrechuk as well as sophomores Nicole Jorgensen and Nay Lassiter, both coming off impressive rookie campaigns. The Rams also return sophomore Laura Perez, who missed a bulk of her first eligible season due to injury.
Jorgensen, coming off a freshman campaign in which she recorded four double-doubles and was awarded Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week on two separate occasions, also expressed confidence in the development of the new faces.
“We look great,” Jorgensen said. “The newcomers are putting everything they have into it, so it’s going to be a good season.” Jorgensen also acknowledged that the team has a different feel to it, at least mentally. “I feel like we’re mentally prepared, way more than last year,” Jorgensen said. “We all want the same goal.”
All in all, this young team is determined and hungry. Jorgensen and Wilson both expect the team to compete for an Atlantic 10 Championship. They acknowledge that the road isn’t easy for a team with so many new faces, but the Rams are determined. “We talk about being determined,” La-Force said. “Determined to change the mindset of what people think we are as a program, and determined to be better players. You’ll see, on the mental side, a different approach to winning.”