The Richmond Women’s Basketball Team is in a unique situation having not taken any transfers, but also seeing all of last season’s senior depart the program to move onto professional life.
Now, there is a continuity with Richmond, which is currently on the rise, finding success in a year where countless programs were shutdown, taking Saint Louis to overtime in last year’s Atlantic 10 Championship Quarterfinals, ultimately losing by a single point.
“It took a while to want to go back to watch the SLU game,” Richmond coach Aaron Roussell admitted. “We got the ball in the same spots, we just weren’t good at putting the ball in the hole. We were inefficient. We have to maybe be more diverse in how we attack things. Not to put it all on one game but that concerned me. Our arsenal was not as diverse as we would like it to be. We tried to implement it in the offseason, and we’ll see how it goes.”
According to senior forward Emma Squires, expect more of a five-out style where a largely familiar team is making reads off each other, looking to make the proper play. This will create more of a game flow and an exciting style that fans will enjoy watching.
“We definitely have a good team chemistry that has carried over,” said Squires. “In my four years I’ve had a lot of changes over my course of being here. The transition from last year to this year has probably been the smoothest. We’ve been able to implement a lot of new things with a consistent coaching staff. We have a lot of good, exciting things coming up that give us a lot of confidence.”
The Spiders took approximately half of the summer off and returned to campus eager to play.
Richmond, picked seventh in the preseason poll, expects to take another jump forward this season, though it also is aware that an overwhelming majority of the conference’s top performers, decided to return to their respective teams.
When speaking of last year’s team, Roussell did discuss the turnover piece, as the Spider averaged nearly 17.5 a game last season. He believes some of that came down to fundamentals and a better understanding of the offense, while also putting those on the court in better positions.
In regards to those on the court, Richmond saw senior guard Kate Klimkiewicz (14.3 ppg/44.4% FG/6.9 rebs) earn preseason recognition as a member of the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference Second Team.
“Kate has made a jump and extended her range,” Roussell said. “She is faster, quicker, more comfortable in her own skin and more assertive in system. Her confidence has to grow. She has to have that killer mentality and we’ve seen it more this fall.”
Forward Addie Budnik (11.4 ppg/48.5% FG/65 blocks/88.9% FT) was named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year and returns for a sophomore campaign.
Roussell admitted that he was unsure if he thought Budnik would earn rookie of the year but also stated he was not surprised.
“Addie was phenomenal last year,” said Roussell. “In AAU you saw she blocked shots. and she weirdly has a knack for that. It’s not something we talk about. A lot of those blocks were her being in the right defensive positioning. For being a freshman and top five in blocks and not being in foul trouble is a huge gift. Blocked shots really don’t happen much for us, except for Addie Budnik.”
Also among those also returning to the court this season are, Claire Holt (7.2 ppg), Elaina Chapman (7 ppg/7.1 rebs) and Grace Townsend (6.5 ppg/41.5% FG in reserve role).
Collectively, Richmond feels that being underestimated, but with a focus on consistency, culture and camaraderie, there is a feeling that special things could happen.
“To some degree when you’re underestimated, you have a chip on your shoulder,” Squires stated. “You want to go after the big teams and I would just say that us going into the season, we’ve got that mindset. We have that confidence that we know we’re good enough, but also, we know in the back of our minds that not everyone gives us the respect we deserve. That respect is also earned, so that’s what we have to go out and show everybody this year.”
Squires believes the goal is earned an A-10 championship, something that has been consistent. The standard has clearly been set, but now it is being raised.
“Everything we’re doing now, we hope it will lead up to that moment in March when everything is on the line,” said Squires. “Everything we’re doing now is worth it and I think we have a special group that can do that this year.”
Photo credit: Brian McWalters/Road Win Photos