The UNCG Women’s Basketball team will begin regular season play on Wednesday, as they travel to Atlanta to square off against the Georgia State Panthers. That is the first stepping stone of what Head Coach Trina Patterson believes can be a very successful season for the Spartans.
Non-conference road games against the power-five include opponents such as North Carolina and Seton Hall, as well as games against other quality opponents such as Liberty, High Point, Richmond and Coastal Carolina. All of these teams are likely to compete for spots in the NCAA Tournament as well as lesser post-season tournaments. Any wins that UNCG can compile against these teams will go a long way in the eyes of the selection committee.
Patterson herself explained the motivation behind the Spartans’ grueling non-conference schedule in an interview stating that the goal is, “to put ourselves in position to win the SoCon championship, and in order to win championships you have to play teams that are champions or have been there before.”
The excitement is mounting in Fleming Gymnasium as the program had fallen on hard times and needed a bit of a rebuild before Patterson was brought into the fold. In year three under Patterson’s guidance, the fruits of everyone’s labor could begin bearing this season. Generally, when a new coach is brought onto a college program, they need around three-to-five years to recruit and set a new culture. We could see this in this year’s team as the Spartans had the youngest club in the nation last year due to a near-absence of upperclassmen. Coach Patterson understood this and was accepting of the challenges the team faced last year, using it as a learning experience. Patterson acknowledged how the experience of last year impacted the team going into the offseason and the 2018-19 campaign.
“There is a hunger to this team as well as a laser beam type of focus that is prepared for the challenges that are coming towards them,” Patterson said in an interview with The Carolinian.
The hype, however, is not just internal. It expands across the entire conference, as UNCG is currently projected to finish in fourth place in the SoCon, a marked improvement over last year’s sixth place finish. Junior guards Te’ja Twitty and Nadine Soliman have both been projected to members of the All-SoCon Team this season. Soliman is hoping to make a third consecutive appearance on the All-SoCon list after being named to the Second Team in her first two years with the Spartans. Twitty is hoping to have a breakout season and garner her first All-SoCon recognition in her expanded role this season.
All in all, the Spartans have a young, battle-tested and exciting group of players who should expect to be a very formidable contender in the SoCon. As earlier stated, the Spartans are just now entering the window when most programs begin to make a jump under their new coach. That’s not to cast any aspersions on Patterson’s first two seasons on board as 2016’s run to the WBI Championship game was definitely a success. However, that level of success must not only be sustained, but also built upon, and UNCG appears to be on that trajectory.
The team has done their work in the off-season and now it is time for the students to pick up the mantle. Be sure to come and support the Spartans in Fleming Gymnasium, as fan support is an extremely critical component in any successful athletics program. Coach Patterson ensures that your time will not be wasted as the team will “make [Fleming Gymnasium] a great place for [their] fans to come watch and see how hard [they] work.”