The 2009-10 season will truly be an historic one for the
Tennessee Tech women's basketball team as the new-look Golden
Eagles seek to rebuild the program following three consecutive
seasons with a losing record. In an effort to regain supremacy both
in the Ohio Valley Conference and on the national stage, Tech has
brought in a new coaching staff and seven first-year players.
Head coach Sytia Messer was introduced as the new face of the
women's basketball program in August, and she will enter her first
season as a collegiate head coach following assistant coaching
stints at Arkansas State and Memphis. Messer spent the last five
seasons at Georgia Tech where she moved into the position of
associate head coach. A Waldo, Ark., native, Messer brings with her
a blue-collar attitude that she hopes to instill in her team.
"I want people to leave our games saying how hard we played,"
Messer said. "This will be a disciplined team, and I want my
players to always leave the game with their jerseys wet from
Messer will have her work cut out for her as she attempts to
mesh her seven newcomers with four returnees from last year's team
that finished with a 9-21 overall record and 7-11 mark in the OVC.
Furthermore, in the OVC preseason poll, Tech was picked to finish
eighth in the conference this season. However, Messer is looking
forward to the challenges that lie ahead and does not mind being
picked toward the bottom of the pack.
"I'm very excited about this opportunity. We'll have to work
hard, go in and prove ourselves," Messer said. "We don't have a lot
of respect, and I like that. I like being the underdog."
Joining Messer on the coaching staff will be first-year
assistants Dee Bell, Bett Shelby and Coretta Brown. Bell has eight
years of head coaching experience under his belt, while Shelby was
most recently an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at
Stetson. Brown played four seasons in the WNBA and was a
coordinator at Georgia Tech for two seasons prior to arriving at
"I think I have one of the best staffs in America," Messer said.
"I'm excited about having coach Bell here, especially because of
all of his experience as a head coach. There are a lot of things
that he can foresee because he's been in my position, which is
The Golden Eagle coaching staff will have to prepare for a very
challenging schedule, especially early in the season when Tech will
take on opponents from the Big 12, Southeastern Conference and Big
East. Messer's Golden Eagles will start the season against Alabama
this Friday before taking on national powerhouses Baylor on Tuesday
and Louisville on November 22.
"I still haven't exhaled over my schedule yet," Messer said.
"I'm excited about it because it's going to test us early. It's
definitely going to prepare us for the OVC."
Tech begins OVC play on December 5 at Jacksonville State and
will have to wait until January 2 for its first conference home
contest against Southeast Missouri. The Golden Eagles will wrap up
the regular season at home on February 27 against Jacksonville
State, three days before the opening round of the OVC Tournament.
The Golden Eagles will look to utilize their versatility at the
guard position and athleticism in the post in hopes of creating
mismatches for opposing teams in 2009-10. Tech plans to get up and
down the floor quickly to create easy baskets on offense and play
attacking, suffocating defense in order to create turnovers.
Tech's young squad will have to grow up fast as the Golden
Eagles will look to sophomores Tacarra Hayes and Krystal Stirrup to
lead the team.
Hayes averaged 6.7 points per game in OVC play last season and
showed how explosive she can be offensively with a 20-point game
against Austin Peay. Forced to play out of position for much of the
season last year, Hayes will be able to play in the backcourt this
season where she will be able to best utilize her skill set.
"Tacarra will run through a brick wall for you. She was playing
a little out of position toward the end of last year, but she can
get away with it because she plays so hard," Messer said. "She's
one of the quickest players getting to the basket off of the
dribble that I've seen. She is definitely going to be an offensive
threat for us."
Stirrup was a steady contributor off the Golden Eagle bench as a
freshman, but she will likely see an expanded role for Tech in
2009-10. An athletic 6-foot forward, Stirrup averaged 5.8 points
per game last season while pulling in 4.0 rebounds per contest. The
sophomore has the ability to create mismatches for opponents
because of her height and athleticism.
"Krystal is a versatile player, and we'll be able to utilize her
in many different situations," Messer said. "She has displayed a
great deal of leadership by example."
Sophomores Simone Rutledge and Rachel Glidden will be back for
their second seasons with the Golden Eagles as well. Rutledge
earned co-Most Improved Player honors on the team last season,
while Glidden proved to be a threat from behind the 3-point arc for
Messer will certainly look for contributions out of her freshman
class this season, and she is confident that they will be able to
step in and make a difference right away. This preseason, she has
been impressed with the work ethic she has seen from her newcomers.
"Our freshmen have done a tremendous job in terms of their
leadership both on and off the court," Messer said. "It's exciting
to know that I'll have them for four years. They work hard and have
bought into my system from day one."
Entering the season as the seventh winningest program in NCAA
history, the women's basketball team and head coach Sytia Messer
hope the phrase "The more things change, the more they stay the
same" applies to the Golden Eagle 2009-10 season as it looks for
the 35th winning season in the program's history.
Season tickets are on sale for the 2009-2010 season, and are
available at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by
calling (931) 372-3940. Tickets can also be purchased online at