Despite finishing last season with an 18-7 record, including 10 road wins and a 9-5 conference record, the Eagles were unable to garner a spot in the NCAA tournament. However, coming off their best season since 96-97, the team is ranked seventh in the nation and first in University Athletic Association (UAA) and is expecting to make an impact.

According to Head Coach Christy Thomaskutty, the team had a tremendous amount of talent last year, with many players showing strength in different roles.

“I was very pleased with the accomplishments, but the team was not fully satisfied as we did not make the NCAA tournament,” Thomaskutty said.

Senior guard Katie Dickerson described the “awesome” energy the team had coming into the season. The team is excited to be coming back with the highest ranking in Emory history. They are looking to improve on last season’s winning record.

“Ultimately, our goal is to go to the NCAA tournament, and that’s really inspiring everyone right now,” said Dickerson.

The team’s summer trip to Italy provided solid preparation for the upcoming season and gave them a good head start on tackling on some big goals. According to Thomaskutty, players going into new positions got a chance to practice and perfect their skill set. The team’s chemistry benefitted as well.

“This experience definitely brought the team closer and added to the respect and appreciation between team members – it was an overall tremendous opportunity for the team,” said Thomaskutty.

The players seem to agree, commenting on the growth in team unity and cohesiveness post-Italy.

“Everyone feels good, and it feels different going into the season. Everyone seems to be on the same page,” said Dickerson.

During their preseason practices, the women have been working hard on team building. The team also has a new strength and conditioning coach pushing the team in practice to provide everyone with a great foundation coming into the season.

“The first couple weeks of practice have been amazing; the tempo is on, everyone is excited to be there and giving it their 110 percent,” Dickerson said.

However, this season will be different without last year’s seniors.

“Any time you lose players who had significant role, it’s really tough to replace. Everyone needs to step up and replace the void from the presence of strong players and leadership that we have lost,” Thomaskutty said.

As a result, the team is looking to certain players to step up and play a critical role in the upcoming season.

“Sophomore center O’dez Oraedu has a strong presence on the team,” Thomaskutty said. “I am also expecting great things from a number of starting players from last season.”

The freshmen did not attend the trip to Italy, but their performance in the pre-season is keeping up with the team’s vision of success. According to both Thomaskutty and Dickerson, they have been working hard and fit into the team dynamic perfectly. The new freshmen – Sarah Arington, Khadijah Sayyid and Ilene Tsao – have learned a lot during the initial weeks of the season, and their performance is promising.

With a strong group of players, a high ranking and high energy out on the courts, the team’s goal for the season is to keep getting better every day while always practicing their fundamentals and aspiring to win.

“It starts in the first game, and beyond that, it starts everyday in practice,” Thomaskutty said.

Despite last year’s disappointment, the team’s major goals and driving forces remain to win the UAA and earn a berth for the NCAA tournament.

“We feel like everything is in our grasp this year, and the tournament is vital,” Dickerson said. “But we are taking it one game at a time and focusing on local opponents before the UAAs.”

The Eagles will play their first game of the year in an exhibition at Clayton State University this Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

By Nicola Bragisnky