Women's Basketball Quarter Poll Check-In
The Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball team (6-1) was defeated by Notre Dame (3-3) 78-84 Thursday, marking their first loss of the young season.
The weeknight bout was the Hokies’ closest and first road contest this season, in which they fell just short. After exchanging 15-2 and 15-0 runs in the first two quarters, the Hokies failed to overcome a five-point halftime deficit, falling to 1-1 in conference play
The maroon and orange have earned their keep largely through three-point marksmanship, shooting 80-192 (41.7%) from deep as a team this season. All three of these marks lead the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The high-octane group is led by Head Coach Kenny Brooks, currently serving the fifth year of his tenure in Blacksburg. Brooks has led his teams to a combined 92-50 record since arriving and appears to have a special collection of talent this time around.
VT has been a model of consistency this season as four members of the starting five are scoring at a double-digit rate. Led by sophomore Center Elizabeth Kitley’s 19.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per outing, the Hokies have posted an average margin of +20.1 points per game.
Kitley is no stranger to the spotlight, having been selected to the All-ACC Freshman Team last year as well as the current Preseason All-ACC Team, joined by senior guard and teammate Aisha Sheppard. The big/little partnership that these two form is a textbook example of what’s constructed when a dominant big partners with a creative, sharp-shooting guard, and that is a nightmare matchup for opponents.
Sheppard (17.8 ppg) is more than just a shooter, though, leading her team in steals in addition to her usual three-pointers. This type of intensity on both sides of the ball from the captain has set the example for the rest of the Hokies, to which they have responded tremendously.
According to a poll voted on by Head Coaches of ACC teams, Virginia Tech was supposed to finish seventh in the conference this season: their record up to this point in time suggests something much different.
So, where did the other coaches go so wrong?
Virginia Tech women's basketball received 13 points in this week's updated AP Top 25, good for fourth in teams receiving votes, equal to 29th.#Hokies travel to Notre Dame (2-3, 0-1 ACC) on Thursday before hosting Virginia (0-5, 0-2) in Cassell Coliseum on Sunday.— David Cunningham (@therealdcunna) December 14, 2020
Perhaps the answer may be found in the Hokies' approach:
Coach Brooks has orchestrated a pace-and-space philosophy, utilizing his team’s incredible perimeter touch while leaving space for Kitley to operate around the restricted area. This is accomplished through a “4-out 1-in” approach in which the wings vacate the painted areas to allow Tech’s star center the freedom to dominate inside.
Kitley has not been the only underclassman to leave her mark on Hokie Nation this year: freshman Georgia Amoore (14.1 ppg) and sophomore Cayla King (9.7 ppg) have joined her, Sheppard and Asiah Jones (10.1 ppg) in the starting five of every game in the 2020-21 campaign. This young core will only continue to grow with game experience, leaving a very scary prospect for rival teams in the ACC.
“We have a lot of pieces people don’t know about... [We’re] absolutely” a tournament team.
Virginia Tech’s talented group of women have exceeded expectations thus far, though their biggest tests remain ahead of them in the forms of Louisville, NC State and Syracuse. Losses within the conference, like the one to Notre Dame, will become more impactful and must be prepared for as such.
We have already seen the men’s team in the national rankings this season: the women’s early form has made them viable candidates to join the top-25 at some point down the road.