Andrew Salmon and Brayden Stamps
Sports Editor and Staff Writer
Coming into the 2018-19 season, fans were hopeful for UNCG Women’s Basketball. What had been the youngest team in all of Division I was now a year older and returned All-SoCon forward Nadine Soliman as well as 2017 SoCon All-Freshman selection Te’ja Twitty. However, things didn’t pan out for the Spartans, finishing 11-19 and falling in the first round of the SoCon Tournament to Chattanooga, 72-62.
The season started out relatively promising for the Spartans, which went 3-2 in its first five games. The three wins saw the Spartans hold the opposition to 23, 29 and 32 points, respectively.
“We’re always a program building and moving towards excellence,” Patterson said in an interview with The Carolinian. “Especially in the beginning of the year, I saw some signs of a great defensive team, with the fact that we were able to hold a team to 29 points… So, as a team, I thought we made some strides defensively in our attack mentality.”
But the wheels started coming off after that. UNCG lost six of the next nine to finish out the non-conference slate. Road losses were their downfall, going just 1-13 on the road all season and 0-7 in non-conference play, including a 21-point loss at North Carolina. Meanwhile, UNCG finished 9-4 at home.
Three-point shooting also proved a thorn in UNCG’s side. As the season dragged on, their three-point accuracy steadily declined. They ultimately finished shooting 28% from deep, good for seventh in the conference. Soliman led the way for the Spartans, attempting 206 of UNCG’s 454 three-pointers. The junior forward shot 34% from deep. The rest of the team shot a combined 23%.
But Soliman still has work to do.
“You know, our team overall kind of suffered in the three-point category,” Patterson said. “We were at the bottom [of the SoCon]. And [Soliman] did really well early, but as she had to take on more of a point guard role, her three-point game suffered… We know that she can make threes, but she had to manufacture her own shots. When other people are going to be manufacturing shots for her, we know that’s going to improve.”
Someone else that Patterson expects to develop over the summer is rising junior Cece Crudup, who started every game in 2019.
“She had fourteen points in the (SoCon) tournament game. She’s just someone who I really think is going to make another jump. Her athleticism, her work ethic, her skill level has improved tremendously.”
Considering the disappointing end to a mostly disappointing season, Coach Patterson and UNCG Women’s Basketball will have a busy offseason ahead. With the team that was the youngest in Division I two years ago about to be juniors and seniors, expectations will be high.
Patterson expects her team to come out with fire.
“We’ll have Brandi Fier back, she’ll be a fifth year kid. She tore her ACL, so she’ll be back. Alexis Pitchford will be a senior. Nadine Soliman will be a senior, Alexus Willey [will be a senior]… This year’s team was also really young. But I think next year is going to be packed with players who are hungry.”
On the recruiting trail, UNCG has already signed 5’7 point guard Jordan Releford according to MaxPreps. Patterson expects to sign more.
Releford, the second-ranked point guard in Georgia according to MaxPreps, led her high school team to the state final last winter. Releford suffered a severe leg injury late and the game slipped away with her off the court. It was a crushing defeat for Releford, but Patterson thinks that will only serve as fuel to the fire.
“[Releford] has a heart as big as this campus. She’s a worker and we know that she can be an impact. So it’s about rehabbing… we just have to see how fast she can come back. But she would definitely be an impact player. In the spring, we’re going to sign some players. We’re actually in that process right now of adding some people to our roster.”
UNCG returns all five starters for next season. The 2020 season schedule is yet to be released.