The tournament will see Reinhardt compete against the likes of Tennessee Temple, Talladega and Emmanuel.
The Lady Eagles only return five starters from last year, with 13 new players — the majority of them freshmen — making up the rest of the squad. Despite the obvious youth, third-year coach Jenny Hayes is excited by what she has seen in practice so far.
“Though our girls are young, they are a very talented group,” Hayes said. “They come in focused and work hard every day.”
Hayes feels her young team needs to use the beginning of the season to improve their communication and begin to jell as a team.
“We are focused on getting our chemistry going and building a cohesive squad,” Hayes said. “We are going to work on that in our first few weeks of (matches), and, hopefully, by the time we really dig into the conference schedule, we will be ready to get rolling.”
In preparation for the season, Hayes placed an emphasis on team bonding — both on and off the court — throughout the summer.
On the court, Hayes utilizes high-pressure practices to force her squad to play as more of a unit.
“(The coaching staff has) been putting them in game-like situations, where they have to learn to communicate with each other in a very limited amount of time,” Hayes said. “We want them to build a connection with each other.”
Off the court, the players have participated in more casual activities, such as scavenger hunts, to become more familiar with one another.
“The bonding that we’ve done has really helped the girls to open up, as they’ve seen both the serious and silly sides of each other,” Hayes said.
As the Lady Eagles take the court Saturday morning for the first match with Tennessee Temple, Hayes will depend on seniors Candace Turcotte and Kim McIntyre to provide leadership.
Turcotte realizes that, with such an inexperienced supporting cast, how well the veterans perform could greatly affect the whole team.
“Our influence has a lot to do with how the team will play,” Turcotte said. “Kim and I are both on the front line, so we’re typically the last ones to touch the ball. If we play poorly and can’t get it over the net, or start to have a bad attitude, it’ll affect the back line as well.”
McIntyre believes a positive attitude is the most important thing she and Turcotte can bring to the court.
“We need to have a good presence on the court,” said McIntyre, who is in her third year at Reinhardt. “It’s our responsibility to be the vocal leaders out there.”
With Turcotte and McIntyre leading the charge, Hayes hopes to see the Lady Eagles finish inside of the top four of the Appalachian Athletic Conference this year after missing out and finishing seventh last season.
“We can definitely improve upon last year,” said Hayes, whose team went 8-22 last year.