October 24, 2010

Messer: Hard-working Golden Eagles to focus on defense, up-tempo play

The 2009-10 season saw a steady improvement for the Golden Eagle women’s basketball team under first-year head coach Sytia Messer. Now in her second season, Messer will be looking for bigger and better things out of her 2010-11 squad.

“The number one thing people will see out of us is hard work,” Messer says. “We will focus on our defense and play an up tempo style of play.”

The Golden Eagles are in their final weeks of preparation before opening the season with an exhibition game on Thursday, Nov. 4. Messer’s squad will host Bryan College at 5:30 p.m. in the Eblen Center, the first game of a doubleheader.

Tickets for Tech’s upcoming basketball season are on sale at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center, or by calling (931) 372-3940.

During her first season as head coach, Messer led the Golden Eagles to a 14-16 overall record and tied for fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference. Not bad for a team that was picked to finish eighth in the conference a year ago and welcomed seven new players.

“Overall, I was pleased with how our coaches and players handled the expectations last season,” Messer said. “They did not take a play off the whole season and I was proud of them.”

Messer’s team will feature seven returning players from last season, including two all-OVC honorees in junior guard Tacarra Hayes and sophomore guard Kellie Cook. Tech also welcomes in seven newcomers to the squad who will bring a variety of experience.

Tech has three returning juniors this season in Rachel Glidden, Tacarra Hayes and Krystal Stirrup.

“The main thing I expect out of the juniors is more leadership,” Messer said. “Last season as sophomores they logged a lot of minutes and gained a lot of experience.”

Hayes is coming off an outstanding season where she led the Golden Eagles in most categories including points (506 / 16.9 ppg), rebounds (175 / 5.8 rpg) and assists (136 / 4.53 apg). She led the team in double-doubles with six and became just the fourth player at Tech to record a triple-double as she posted 15 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists against Morehead State. All these accomplishments led to Hayes being named to the all-OVC first team and the OVC Player of the Week twice last season.

Glidden finished her 2009-10 campaign averaging 7.3 points per game, while starting in five contests. She also recorded 48 3-pointers, which ranked second on the team.

Stirrup started in 13 games for Tech last season and averaged 7.2 points per game and shot a team-best 47.8 percent from the field. She also tallied at least 10 points in 10 games last season and recorded her second double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds against Bluefield College.

The Golden Eagles welcome back four sophomores Katherine Barker, Kellie and Kylie Cook and Tiara Hopper.

Last season saw Barker become a solid presence on defense as she held the OVC’s leading scorer to a career-low three points. Hopper recorded two double-doubles en route to earning her first OVC Player of the Week award.

The Cook twins also provided a steadying force for Tech, as Kellie and Kylie were the only two players to start in all 30 games last season.

Kellie finished second on the team in scoring with 377 points and recorded her first double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds against Morehead State. She also finished second on the team in rebounds with 142. Kellie was named the OVC Freshman of the Week once and was voted to the OVC all-newcomer team.

Kylie finished her freshman season third on the team in scoring with 245 points and led the Golden Eagles from behind the 3-point line with 55 field goals. She tallied at least 10 points in 12 games, including a career-high 18 against Air Force.

Seven newcomers round out the Tech roster and they could contribute immediately.

“I’m excited for the newcomers we have coming in,” Messer said. “They bring a lot of energy and they fit the system we are trying to run here at Tech.”

Of the seven newcomers, two come to TTU with a few years of experience in Brittany Darling and Lashay Davis. Darling spent two seasons at Owens (Ohio) Community College where she averaged 10.9 points and 9.6 rebounds as a center. Davis transferred from Western Kentucky after averaging 7.4 points per game. Davis will not be eligible to play this season due to NCAA transfer rules.

The Golden Eagles also welcome freshmen Molly Heady, Diamond Henderson, Briana Jordan, Keisha Moore and Candace Parson. Heady and Parson will be expected to provide a solid presence at the post and center positions, while Henderson, Jordan and Moore will shore up the Tech backcourt.  

Joining Messer on the bench will be second-year assistant coach Coretta Brown, along with first-year coaches Stacey Franklin and Steve Wallace. Franklin comes to Tech with over 14 years of coaching experience while Wallace most recently served as the Director of Basketball Operations for the University of Rhode Island.

The coaching staff will have to prepare for another challenging non-conference schedule, taking on the likes of Kentucky, Drake, Middle Tennessee and Belmont.        

The Golden Eagles begin conference play on the road as they visit Jacksonville State Dec. 4, and will open home conference play Dec. 19, against Eastern Illinois. The regular season concludes at home against Jacksonville State, Feb. 26, with the OVC Tournament slated for March 2-5 at Nashville Municipal Auditorium.     

Entering the season as the eighth winningest program in NCAA history, the 2010-11 Golden Eagles will look for their 35th winning season in program history.