With the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, this season will be vastly different than any other that Creighton’s women’s basketball has ever experienced. The Jays are set to open their season Nov. 25 at home against Drake.
The season’s schedule has already been condensed immensely. As of now, the Jays will square off against four nearby universities, including in-state rival Nebraska, before playing only four total games against Big East opponents Xavier, Georgetown, Butler and DePaul. The eight-game schedule as it stands is much smaller than the typical 30- game regular season.
The Jays are not yet scheduled to play Big East newcomers UConn during the regular season. UConn’s women’s basketball team has won 10 of the last 20 national championships, has a top recruiting class each year and is expected to dominate the Big East this season.
“They play really hard, they make you uncomfortable; there’s nothing you don’t admire about the way that they play,” Creighton’s 19-year head coach Jim Flanery said of UConn at the Big East media day in October.
Without the typical strong fan attendance this season, the team is prepping for a way to adjust.
“This year, more than ever, we will be needing to fill that void and get the energy from ourselves and the coaches,” senior guard Temi Carda said.
The longterm goals of the season are to finish top-four in the conference standings and return to the NCAA tournament. Last year the team failed to hit either mark after finishing the season with a winning record, but an 11-17 record in conference play. However, with as unusual of a season as this year’s will be, there is one particular goal Flanery has in mind.
“Having the opportunity to play and compete somewhat uninterrupted would be goal No. 1 because of everything everyone’s been through the last seven or eight months,” Flanery said.
This year, the team has 14 eligible players, as opposed to just 12 last year. The team has added five three-star freshmen, an atypically large class. For Flanery, this added depth is especially important with this year’s uncertainties of the coronavirus’ impact on the team.
“My goal is just to figure out what my role is, do that to the best of my ability, and be able to mesh with the older players who play my position and learn from them,” freshman guard Morgan Maly said.
Despite the added depth, the team lost Morgan Turner, Olivia Elger and Jaylyn Agnew, who were major contributors to the production of last year’s team. Agnew, who scored 20.8 points per game, was named Big East player of the year last season and was Creighton women’s basketball’s first WNBA draft pick.
“Not just Jaylyn’s production will be hard to replace, but also her steadiness, her demeanor, and her ability to lead the team with a calming influence,” Flanery said.
The Jay’s will first look to Tatum Rembao and Temi Carda for leadership, the team’s only two seniors this season. Rembao, Creighton’s expected starting point guard, will be especially key to the team’s success.
Rembao hopes to stay healthy this season after suffering injuries in each of the past two seasons.
“I’ve grown to be comfortable in this position,” Rembao said of her role as a leader, during a press conference in October. “I feed off of others’ energy, so if I’m the one who brings that energy, hopefully others can feed off that energy as well.”
In addition to the two seniors, the team will rely on younger players in not just the juniors, but also sophomore forwards Mykel Parham and Carly Bachelor, whom Flanery was proud to point out have made great improvements during the long offseason.
The team’s strengths that will strongly influence its style of play this season, mainly result in being a bigger and more physical team than last year.
“I do think that being a longer team, we will be a better rebounding team and a better, little bit more disruptive team defensively that will be harder to score on at the rim,” Flanery said.
On the other hand, the Jays will look to improve on spacing and reducing turnovers. The team will also focus on revamping their 3-point shooting ability, aspects of the game the team has underperformed at in recent years.
“As much uncertainty as there is, I think you have to be grateful for the fact that you might get the chance to play,” Flanery said. “I think it would be easy for the players to feel sorry for themselves, but they’ve done a good job of seeing the positives, and that’s need-to-see from my standpoint.”