The Valdosta Daily Times
The schedule is finalized, the roster is set, and the Lady Blazers are gearing up for an exciting season of VSU basketball in 2013-14.
Looking to build on last year's 16-11 record, the Lady Blazers will feature ten returnees to the VSU women's basketball program to accompany four brand new additions.
Among the exciting newcomers this season, is a face that Valdosta State women's basketball fans may recognize, although not in a fond way.
April Thomas, a junior transfer from Bainbridge, Ga., opposed the Lady Blazers last year as a starting guard for the Golden Rams of Albany State University.
She proved to be nearly unstoppable last season against VSU, as she poured in a total of 45 points in two contests.
This season, the tide has turned and Lady Blazer fans will experience the pleasure of watching Thomas take the floor in Valdosta as a member of the home team.
Head Coach Kiley Hill is acutely aware of the advantage that Thomas provides for his squad.
"When April reached out to us expressing her desire to transfer, our only hesitation was making sure all of the i's were dotted and t's were crossed in terms of transfer rules. She's a great player, but a great student as well. When she came to visit and I had an opportunity to see what kind of person she was, it sealed the deal for me," stated Hill. "April may be small, but she plays so big. She loves to play the game, and she's going to be exciting to watch."
Other new faces include Amy Duke, a 6' 0" forward with a shooter's mentality, Reshaundra Owens, who joins the Lady Blazers as a freshman from Mableton, Ga., and Maggie Davis, a sophomore transfer from Georgia Southern who Hill refers to as a "blue-collar worker who's willing to get out there and do the dirty work for us."
As for returnees, Lady Blazer fans will be thrilled to have the opportunity to witness the growth of ten players who have traversed the hardwood of The Complex in seasons past.
Kamyia Smith and Courtney Sprague serve as a pair of guards who tallied 6.8 and 9.4 points per game last season, respectively, and combined for over one fourth of the Lady Blazers' 1635 points scored. The pair will look to control the floor for Valdosta State at the guard positions, and Coach Hill will be counting on the two to provide quality minutes moving forward.
After a long and grueling wait throughout the entirety of the 2012-2013 season, fan favorite Maylisa Johnson is once again healthy and returns to the lineup for the upcoming campaign.
According to Coach Hill, the importance of the senior Oklahoma native can not be overstated.
"Important is not the word," says Hill. "May's standing on this team is gigantic. After sitting out for a year, I believe she has a new passion for the game, and she values every day on the floor. Her versatility allows her to play any position for us and gives us a dynamic that allows us to do a lot of different things."
Johnson served as a key player in 2011-12 for Valdosta State and led the Gulf South Conference in assists with 120 on the year.
Yet another positive note for VSU heading into opening night, is the return of Brooke Satterfield. A junior from Watkinsville, Ga., Satterfield provides a strong threat for the Lady Blazers from long distance, and her worth is backed up by her numbers, which include a 35 career three point shots and a .304 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. Satterfield saw big minutes last year for the team, starting in 23 of the squad's 27 contests, while racking up 148 points.
In addition, the Lady Blazers are pleased to welcome back Jordan Waugh and Jocelyn Danley to the mix after both were forced to sit out due to injuries in previous seasons, while Kourtnee Williams and Katie Repko will also return to provide depth at the guard position.
In the paint, the Blazers will look to junior Kaylee Higginbotham and senior Ivana Domljanovic.
Standing at 6' 3" and 6' 2", respectively. The duo appeared in nearly every game for Valdosta State last season and stood among the team leaders in field goal percentage, as they both shot over .450.
Domljanovic provides a scoring presence in the lane, and Higginbotham has proven her worth on defense. Higginbotham's stopping power is reflected by here blocking statistics last season, where she led the Lady Blazers with 17.
The 2013-14 Blazers and Lady Blazers are sure to bring lots of excitement newly renovated Complex this season, and it all starts today against Trinity Baptist out of Jacksonville, Fla. at 6 p.m. Make sure you don't miss a minute of the action.