Martin “excited” about Blue Hens this season
MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR
A year ago, people asked the same question of the Delaware women’s basketball team. Is there life after Elena Delle Donne? The team proved there was “life after Elena” by going 20-11 last year.
This year, head coach Tina Martin said while people still ask about Delle Donne, it’s not in playing terms for the Blue Hens.
“I think that at this point, it’s been over a year, and people always ask questions about Elena,” said Martin, now in her 18th season as head coach. “They want to know what kind of person she is and what it was like to coach her, stuff like that. We’re pretty much passed the questions about basketball from an X and O standpoint. It’s more they just want to know a little bit about her as a person and how she’s doing in Chicago.”
Last year’s team featured two seniors, Kelsey Buchanan and Akeema Richards, as well as a slew of freshmen and sophomores. This year’s team features two seniors, forward Joy Caracciolo and center Stephanie Leon, as well as junior guards Courtni Green and Jade Clark and junior forward Alecia Bell to offer training to the new freshmen.
Among the freshmen, guard Chastity Taylor and Makeda Nicholas have been the strongest so far, Martin said. The returning sophomores include redshirt guard Jodi Salyer and forward Hannah Jardine, both of whom made impacts on play last season by scoring 43 and 138 points respectively.
While the team will miss Buchanan’s leadership, the returning players can help to fill the void, Salyer said.
“KB last year, she was our leader and a really good player on the court, so we miss her in both aspects,” Salyer said. “But Steph [Leon] and Alecia are our two captains, so they’re our leaders.”
One of the storylines last year with the team revolved around Martin’s belief that the team needed to work on rebounds and toughness. This year, the main issue so far with the team is its defensive skill. Salyer said she attributed it to the team’s youth.
The team’s defensive skill is something she is still addressing, Martin said.
“I think the biggest thing is defense,” Martin said. “That’s always a work in progress. Our defense, at times, it’s been good this preseason––and at times I haven’t been happy with it––so defense is something we’ll always be trying to work on.”
The schedule this season sees nonconference games against Marist College, Fordham University, Bucknell University and Princeton University on the Hens’ home court at the Bob Carpenter Center. The team will also face East Carolina University, University of Vermont and Temple University on the road in the near future.
Conference play will begin Jan. 4 against Elon, while the Hens will face rivals James Madison twice this year, including the penultimate game of the regular season on March 1.
Fordham and Marist are going to be some of the more challenging teams the Blue Hens will face, Martin said.
“I think that there’s several good teams,” she said. “Fordham is the returning Atlantic-10 champion, we’ve had a big win over Marist College and they’re the [Mid-American Conference] champion, they’ve been an NCAA team for nine straight years.”
So far this season, the team is “a bit banged up,” Martin said. Green is coming back from a medial collateral ligament injury suffered before the season began, and Bell is out for the year after suffering a broken leg in the 70-60 victory against Marist on Nov. 16.
Despite the injuries and the work needed on the team’s defense, Martin said she is confident that this season will go well for the team.
“I’m excited about this young group,” Martin said. “We need consistency out of our freshmen, and we need consistency out of our sophomores, and certainly we need to have consistent play out of Joy Caracciolo.”