After pulling together his sixth 20-plus win season in a row last year with a depleted WVU women’s hoops team, coach Mike Carey has reloaded his roster this year and is excited to get started on a new campaign.
It all gets started at the WVU Coliseum at 7 p.m. against St. Francis.
“We’re excited, it’s about that time of the year when we start playing games,” he said. “We’re excited. I can promise you we’re going to come out and play hard.”
The Mountaineers added several new pieces to their team this year, which hopefully for them, will alleviate some issues with depth they had a season ago. All eyes will be on their returners, though, namely Madisen Smith and Kari Niblack, who have already received conference honors ahead of the season.
Niblack is coming off a breakout freshman season in which she earned the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year award. She anticipates a bigger sophomore season this year.
“I have a higher basketball IQ now, I’m able to see the floor better than I was last year,” she said. “I’ve been working a lot on my guard skills.”
Forward Esmery Martinez will make her freshman debut against St. Francis. The native of Hato Mayor Del Ray, Dominican Republic averaged a double-double at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Tennessee, and Carey has high praise for her ahead of her college career.
“Esmery is going to be a big time player,” Carey said. “I’m saying it right here: she’s got the chance to be a big time player for West Virginia University, so we’re really excited about her also.”
One of the main emphases this season will be a return to tough “Mike Carey defense,” and getting there hasn’t been easy.
“It’s hard and it’s tiring,” said junior Kysre Gondrezick. “But it’s worth it.”
While West Virginia will be officially tipping their season off, St. Francis enters this contest already with a loss under their belt — the Red Flash took a 105-41 loss to Virginia Tech to start off their season on Tuesday.
Luckily for Carey, all nine of his active players will dress, and he says all of them will likely see action.
“I’ll tell you what, when I say this, we’re nine deep,” he said. “We’re nine deep, all nine can play….All nine will see a lot of action throughout the year because I think they all contribute, and they all can do things to help us win.”