By: Nikhil Jelaji
With head coach Amy Waugh resigning a few weeks before the season, the Xavier women’s basketball team will look to build around its eight freshmen under interim head coach Brian Neal.
The Musketeers went 13-16 last season and 8-8 in Cintas Center. Three starters return to the Xavier lineup this season, but in order for this season to be successful, Neal will need his freshmen class to perform up to expectation.
This year’s freshmen class holds the majority of players on the predominantly young team.
The 2013-14 women’s team consists of eight freshmen, three sophomores and two seniors. The freshmen on this year’s team will look to learn from their older teammates, particularly senior guards Shatyra Hawkes and Ashley Waninger.
However, there will be a great amount of competition between the young players to find a spot on Neal’s team.
Maddison Blackwell, a 6-foot freshman forward from Gahanna, Ohio, will look to see a lot of playing time this year. The ESPN Hoopgurlz four-star recruit is eager to earn a starting spot this season.
She averaged 10.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game in high school and was ranked 20th in her position by ESPN.
Blackwell helped lead her team to the OSHAA State Tournament Regionals with 19 points and nine rebounds in the district finals as a junior.
Leah Schaefer, a 6-foot-2 freshman forward from Alexandria, Ky., will also look to earn a lot of minutes this year. She was ranked 51st in the country at her position and led the Highlands High School Bluebirds to a 26-8 record.
After winning a district championship as a junior, she earned 2013 Northern Kentucky Division II All-Star honors and the 2011-12 Division II Kentucky Player of the Year award.