Women’s Basketball Season Preview

Photo by Justo Photography
Photo by Justo Photography

Written by Sean Dahlin

BUENA VISTA, Va.­—The Southern Virginia University women's basketball team is in search of its second consecutive winning season—the Knights finished 14-10 last year—and hopes to return to the 16-team USCAA National Tournament for the third straight time.

"We're excited for the upcoming season and the challenges that lie ahead," said fourteen-year Head Coach Michael Harmon. "This year is no different as each year our goal is to reach the national tournament and try to make a run for the title."

Last year, Southern Virginia recorded its first winning season (14-10) since 2008-09—who finished with an 18-11 record. The Knights also reached the USCAA National Tournament as a number-five seed and grabbed their first postseason win since 2009 over Berkeley College-NY 73-55 in the opening round to move into the final eight before being eliminated by Selma 57-62.

Women's basketball began in 1998-99 and after a 15-12 inaugural season of which Harmon was assistant coach, the university named Harmon as its new head women's basketball coach—a position he still holds going into his fourteenth year—who guided the second-year program to its first NSCAA national championship.

Throughout his tenure in women's basketball, Harmon led the Knights to two more national titles, winning the 2002 NBCAA and 2006 USCAA national championships, and currently holds a 194-205 record as the program's all-time winningest coach.

In addition to women's basketball, Harmon has led women's volleyball in his ten seasons (1998-2006, 2012) as head coach to a 205-126 record—205 wins mark the most career wins by any head coach in Southern Virginia's 15-year history. 

"Our focus must be on what we need to accomplish this season and not get hung up on what occurred in the past," said Harmon. 

The Knights have four returners from last year's squad—seniors Abigail Logan (Buena Vista, Va.), Mina Romito (Walker, La.), Amaris Newkirk (Folsom, N.M.) and sophomore Larissa Conger (Merino, Colo.). 

"Our returners are experienced and we'll rely on them to provide leadership," said Harmon. 

Harmon expects 2010-11 USCAA Honorable Mention All-American Romito and Newkirk—last year's top scorers averaging 15.2 and 11.1 points-per-game respectively—to be two of Southern Virginia's leading offensive threats for 2012-13. Meanwhile, he sees Logan, USCAA All-Academic selection last year, as a true power forward that can cause mismatches for opposing defenses. 

The Knights' fourth returner Conger, who came off the bench last season averaging 7 points-per-game, will also bring experience to the table having gained valuable playing time as a freshman. 

"Larissa [Conger] provided a spark off the bench and had a solid freshman campaign for us last season," said Harmon. 

In addition to the core of returners, women's basketball has an exciting group of newcomers. 

According to Harmon, transfer junior Ann Kuroki (Hershey, Neb.) will give Southern Virginia a boost slashing to the basket with her two years of experience at the junior college level. Harmon also sees Katie Swenson (Payson, Utah) contributing as a combination guard/forward on both ends of the court. 

Harmon made further mention of incoming freshmen Crystal Cleveland (Delran, N.J.) and Shannon Romito (Walker, La.)—sister of M. Romito—who he believes will give the Knights an imposing presence under the basket at the center and forward positions respectively, and is excited to see their growth throughout the year. 

Sophomore Emily Lakin (Stansbury Park, Utah)—a member of the women's soccer team—and Tabitha Stinnett (Buena Vista, Va.) are also being added to the mix—both of whom Harmon believes will make solid contributions throughout the season. 

"Our team is comprised of a mixture of returners and newcomers," said Harmon. "How quickly we gel as a team will be a determining factor in our success this season." 

Southern Virginia's 22-game schedule is comprised of seven home games at the Knight Arena with the rest of the contests on the road. Women's basketball is slated to face 13 USCAA and eight NCAA Division III opponents along with one NCAA DI foe to round out the 2012-13 season. 

"Our schedule provides a challenge as we prepare to enter the Capital Athletic Conference next year," said Harmon. "After having a good preseason of practices, we're excited to get started." 

Women's basketball opens its season on the road to Newport News, Va., for the Great Ships Classic on Nov. 16 and 17, as the Knights face USCAA-opponents Bennett College on Friday at 6 p.m. and Penn State-Fayette on Saturday at 1 p.m. 

Follow live stats this weekend as the Knights play in the Great Ships Classic.