Women hope cohesion and defense will win the conference championship

First-year guard Essence Abraham.  First-year forward Ymani Breedlove.  Sophomore center Jordyn Brown. Junior guard Kate Clark. First-year forward and guard Kaeli Frank.  First-year guard Sydney Huffman. First-year guard Dyamond Jefferies Kerr. First-year guard Daja’ Penn. Sophomore guard Lauren Ramsey. Sophomore guard Kayla Scott. Junior guard Amy Steller. Junior guard Heaven Walters. Junior forward Anais Weatherly.

Remember these names, because these women make up the force of nature that will lead Guilford into a successful 2015-2016 basketball season.

There is something about basketball that can come across as almost surreal, even for the novice spectator. That feeling does not leave even when the season ends. I suspect it hibernates, biding its time to roam free once more.

Walking onto the Ragan-Brown Field House court to be greeted by a freshly waxed floor smell, screeching sneakers and that distinct sound the ball makes when it hits the floor was like a welcome from an old friend.

It is preseason and the lady Quakers will have their first scrimmage game. Their opponents? The Ferrum College Panthers.

In the back of my mind I cannot let go of the fact that the Guilford women’s basketball team was picked sixth in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference preseason poll. The synergy that I witnessed as I walked in on their warm-up session looked nothing like that of a sixth-placed team.

“We may not look like we are the number one team in the conference on paper, but our character shows otherwise and I think we have what it takes to be the best in the conference.” said Walters via email.

I find a perfect spot behind where the team will be sitting and set up with emails I’ve collected from team members strewed across bleachers. Music blasts through the field house speakers, officials huddle in groups going over their game plan and assistants set up cameras, water bottles and other necessities. All the while the team is hoofing it on the court as if they are the lone entities in the universe.

Ironically, during this moment, Stellar’s words call out to me, “I don’t tend to feel a whole lot of pressure during a game. I am the type of player who can’t think too much about what I’m doing.

“I just have to go out and play like we practice.”

The Quaker women exude the meaning of team. From the moment I stepped in the gym I noticed that Abraham, despite her injury, has been right in the midst of the pre-game practice. She stands side by side with her team and not once keeps the bench warm.

When the Quakers take the court at the start of the game, they emerge with a look of victory on their faces and that is what makes a champion.

“Feels pretty great to be back on the court with the team,” said Brown in an email interview.

There is a distinct difference between the two teams that catches my eye immediately. While the Panthers appear to simply go through the motions of teamwork, the Quakers appear to have written the book on cohesiveness.

“(The ODAC) don’t know what we have,” said head coach Stephanie Flamini in an interview before the scrimmage.

I am juggling between matching up email correspondence and the roster to the players on the court. I come across one email that made me smile the moment it crossed my desk. I simply wanted to know her thoughts on the upcoming season.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” said Huffman. “We’re a young team chasing big dreams to win a big ring.

“Offense wins games but defense wins championships. Our conference teams have a rude awakening coming their way.”

Huffman is just as boisterous on the court as she is on paper.

I did my best to keep up with the score. Notebook in my hand. Back up pen in my hair. iPad at the ready. But at some point I was drawn in by the game and the pure determination of our women Quakers. No way are they going quietly into that good night.

“I have spent time preparing for this year since January of last season when I had knee reconstruction surgery,” said Stellers in an email interview. “I went through the rehab process in the training room every school day until finals of last year.

“Over the summer I worked out six days a week in order to get back in shape and get my knee stronger and working towards getting cleared to play again. I spent my lunch breaks between work and my internship in the gym lifting, running and/or shooting. My expectations for the year are high personally and for our team.”

With pure determination and a coach who wants nothing but the best for her team, I see only success on the horizon. It is up to you if you decide to be in the bleachers when history takes place.

“I want them to have a strong sense of self confidence,” said Coach Flamini. “You deserve to be treated right no matter who you are. You deserve what everyone else has.

“I just want the best for them. I want them to be confident. I want them to go in the world and succeed.”