bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly in-season interviews with Aggie head women's basketball coach Darin Spence. Coach Spence and the Aggies are looking to end a lengthy postseason drought and take aim at a WAC Championship during the 2009-2010 season. This week we talked with Coach Spence about his new players, opening up the season on the road, Madison Spence's health and previewed the games against Cal State-Northridge and Cal Poly
bleedCrimson.net: How have the team's practices been going so far?
Darin Spence: We've had some good practices. About the last four or five days that nervousness and anxiety starts creeping that comes right before you play your first game but they're also real excited to play. We're fine tuning a few things for what we have put in at this time of the year. We're still working on our timing on the offensive end and positioning defense and that kind of thing and trying to identify a few more roles from our kids. We've had some good practices, they've been real energetic and competitive.
bc.net: How have the new players performed in practice and has anyone really stood out to you in these first few practices?
DS: Crystal Boyd being new, she's had signs where she's been really good and then she's had times where she's tried to do too much. I think she's trying to make up for lost time. Not having played a full season while at Texas because of her injuries she's got all that pent up aggression and energy and she's trying to make up for lost time. We're just trying to work with her on not trying to do too much and just kind of let the game come to her. She's doing much better with that and is doing really good. She just adds so much on both sides of the ball, her competitiveness is a big boost.
Jasmine Lowe has been really good. She's had her moments as all junior college transfer have when they go through the adjustment period of not really understanding how hard you have to work all the time. When she's on she's pretty good because she applies a lot of defensive pressure on the ball. She can drive the ball and get it in the lane and create a lot for others. When she's got that smile and she's locked in, she's pretty dangerous. I think people are really going to enjoy watching her play.
Malia Magazzeni in our second scrimmage was really good. She's our 6'2" freshman post player that's really active and she had a really good day and I was really encouraged. She's a really good defender and knows where to be, when to be and rebounds the ball well. She was making some shots as the fifth option, she was putting the ball in the hole and showed a lot of promise.
Our other freshman post, Chrissy Fletcher, same thing. She's got moments where she's really good, rebounds the ball well, doesn't turn the ball over and just does a really good job for us and is a solid player.
With both Malia and Chrissy our four and five positions we're returning back to having those real active kids like we had two years ago. Last year we were a little too much of the plodder type but this year we've returned back to what I like and those two have been really good.
Camila Rosen hasn't done a lot in practice because she's had a cast on her hand the last three week with a little fracture in her wrist but they were cutting that off this morning so we'll see how that feels. She's been running and doing different things with us, just not all the competition. Her spirits have been really good. The new kids have done some good things for us.
bc.net: Your team opens up on the road this year but your team has already experienced a road trip type of atmosphere before the season started, how beneficial was that to get those first trip jitters out of the way essentially before the season has even started?
DS: It got us out and got us in a bus, got us in hotels, got us in restaurants. I saw a different level of maturity from a year ago in that same kind of a setting. Yes, having gone through it before this trip, I think the experiences always pay off the next time you do something. Granted this will be the first time for some of these kids to be flying so that's different, but I think that trip has helped us and we'll see how we handle it. But this group is focused now and excited to play that first game.
bc.net: You open up against Cal State-Northridge who finished 8-23 last season and was a lot like your team last season in that they were a pretty young group.
DS: Yeah, they've had some rough moments the last few years and are trying to get better. They're a quick and athletic type team. They've got a couple big kids and just a group that hasn't quite meshed together. But they did go to the Big West tournament last year and won a game, a game they weren't supposed to win, so now they have a few more seniors in the mix and I think they're excited to turn the page and do better as a team. They won their two exhibition games pretty solidly so that's got to give them some confidence as well.
We expect to see a team that likes to penetrate and drive and throw the ball into one of their post kids who I'm very familiar with, Jasmine Erving. She played on the same club team as Kaitlyn [Soto], I think it was a lower level team in the club system but I'm pretty familiar with her. She does a good job so we're going to have to guard well in the post and not get in foul trouble and play solid defense but they'll be ready to go.
What's got me anxious is just seeing how all our new kids fit in. Crystal Boyd and Jasmine Lowe, Erica Sanchez is out for the season with a knee injury so someone's got to step in an pick up her minutes as well. So now we've got some other kids stepping into other roles. I think we'll be ready to go.
bc.net: On Sunday you face Cal Poly, they were a team that you hosted last season and they wound up being better team than they were picked to be in the preseason.
DS: Yeah, they had a really good year. I think they won 21 games, they've got a number of kids back from that team. They lost two good seniors that were their leading players but they were really deep. They ran the court well and Kristina Santiago, their 6'1" post player is a really good scorer and runs well, they've got a senior point guard who's a nice player, Ashley Stewart. They're a lot like we were three years ago when we went into that good year, we had some experience and we had some good players. So they have a lot of kids that are used to their system and they are hungry to do well just like we are. It's going to be a tough, tough battle.
bc.net: One of the points of emphasis for you this preseason has been defense and getting the team back to playing that tough level of defense that your teams have historically played. Heading into this first weekend of games, where do you feel your team is defensively compared to maybe some of your other teams at this same point in time?
DS: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being where I want us to be come January, February, March, we're probably at about a four right now. We're pretty active and I think we understand what we're supposed to do, it's now just a matter of doing it and making it a habit and a conscious effort to be in the right position all the time. The challenge is when we have Crystal Boyd and Jasmine Lowe on the floor at the same time, they're gamblers. They want to go steal balls which is what we don't really do, so we're not trying to break them of that habit, we're just trying to get them to pick and chose their times to do that and not do it all the time because we want to be a lot more solid. So our support players have to be ready to help and recover if one of those two tries to go out to make a steal and it doesn't happen. But they're both getting better at picking the times of when to go make a steal. They're both really quick and have great reaction time.
Day Day, Danisha Corbett is really paying a lot more attention to being a better defender and rebounder as is Madison. So as a group we're getting better, we're not near as good as we were two years ago but we're already much better than what we were a year ago but we've still got a long way to go.
bc.net: How has Madison been in these first few practices? Is she back to being 100% healthy?
DS: She's good. She's got her body back in great shape, she's long and slender again. She looks really good, her energy is much higher. She's back to shooting the ball real well and back to a lot more like she was as a freshman and kind of playing with that swagger. We also know that people are going to start throwing a lot more defenders on her like they did last a year ago. The good thing now is we have more scorers around and she's such a good passer, she's got more people to throw the ball to now. People are going to have to pick their poison on who they want to let go. Overall she's looking really good.
bc.net: Have you settled in on a starting lineup for Friday?
DS: I don't know yet. We'll probably go with Crystal and Day Day and Madi and probably Tabytha. The fifth one I'm not sure yet. We might go smaller and go with Jasmine or we might go bigger and we might Ashley Scroggins or we might start Malia Magazzeni. I haven't decided which way I want to go yet.