Youthful Ladyjacks open season in Miami Friday

Youthful Ladyjacks open season in Miami Friday

From SFA Athletics

The SFA Ladyjacks will have a tough opening test when they take on the University of Miami on Friday night in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT Tournament.

The game will be shown on ACC Network Extra, with a link to that stream above. Fans can also listen to the smooth delivery of Bobby Mauro on the airwaves through FM Q107.7, and follow along with the game via the live stats link listed atop this page.

The meeting with the Hurricanes marks the second straight season in which SFA has begun the campaign against a Power Five foe, and the first time they've face a ranked opponent in a season opener since the 2013-14 season, when the Ladyjacks opened the season at No. 15 LSU.

"Miami is going to be big and fast and talented, your typical ACC team", said Kellogg. "On paper, they're by far the best team we'll play this year, as Kansas State was to start the season last year. Every time we play a team like that, I hope we'll get a little bit better, but it's an adjustment for some of our kids who haven't played a team like that with the size and athleticism they have. You just hope your kids go relax and just play, make some shots and play a little harder defensively once we're scoring."

The Ladyjacks will rely heavily on a youth movement in 2018-19, as eight of the 12 healthy players suiting up for the season opener are underclassmen. SFA will lean heavily on this group of four freshmen and four sophomores to bridge the inexperience gap with talent and good teamwork. Three starting spots from last season stand vacant, two from departed seniors and one from injury, and it is through results on the court that the Ladyjacks will fill out their starting group.

The known quantity for the 'Jacks in the campaign are returning veterans such as Chanell Hayes, Riley Harvey, Kia Fisker and Imani Johnson. Hayes is the team’s leading scorer that returns for her senior season, while Harvey put up good number as a reserve last season and will be in line for greater usage this season. Johnson was named the 2017-18 Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year and gives the 'Jacks some flexibility on offense with her outside shooting ability. Fisker saw action in all but five games last season and serves as an effective reserve in the post.

Head coach Mark Kellogg is the man set to lead the Ladyjacks into the fray in his fourth season at the helm, having racked up 68 wins in his first three seasons. Kellogg’s tenure has also seen him post a 42-13 record in Southland Conference play and advance to the postseason in each of the past two seasons.

For the Hurricanes, the road to becoming a perennial ACC power has been paved by head coach Katie Meier, who enters her 14th season at the lead of "The U" and is looking to add to her 329 career victories. Meier has also led her squad to postseason play in eight of the nine seasons and posted 20+ wins in seven of eight campaigns. The 'Canes lost both leading scorers from a year ago, but guard Mykea Gray posted a healthy 12.7 points per game last season and is back for her sophomore season. Emese Hof is a 6-3 center who gives the Hurricanes a good mix of scoring, rebounding and shot blocking down low.

TIP-OFF TIDBITS

• SFA has posted a total of 32 20+ win seasons in 49 full seasons of competition.

• One of just nine NCAA Division I institutions with 1000+ wins, the Ladyjacks rank seventh all-time with 1055 victories.

• SFA was picked to finish second in the Southland Conference Preseason Coaches Poll entering the 2018-19 season. SFA finished as the runners-up in the regular season standings last year despite a 16-2 conference record.

Mark Kellogg’s career winning percentage of .776 is the fifth best mark among active Division I coaches.