W&L women’s basketball navigates new challenges in search of continued success

The women’s team holds a 6-2 record this season


Courtesy of Generals Sports

Women’s basketball co-captain Tahri Phillips, ’23, stays focused on what’s in sight.

Christian Basnight, Staff Writer

The Generals women’s basketball team aims to reach unprecedented heights during the 2022-23 competitive season.  

The team is primed for another standout showing this year after a historic 2021-22 season. 

Helmed by 2021-22 Old Dominion Athletic Conference Coach of the Year Christine Clancy, the Blue and White currently hold a 6-2 win-loss record, winning all five of their conference games. The team’s two defeats came after an overtime battle with the University of Mary Washington before subsequently falling to Swarthmore by a three-point deficit.  

 “This season has seen some really high highs and a couple of low lows,” Clancy said. “I am really proud of the team this week, going on the road to beat Southern Virginia whose home crowd environment can be very difficult.” 

 Last season, the Generals went 20-7, setting a program record for the best winning percentage and most overall wins in a single season. Despite falling in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference semifinals, the Blue and White received an at-large bid to compete in the NCAA Division III tournament for the second time in program history. W&L fell in the opening round to New York University by ten points, but the Generals gained valuable lessons that can be applied to forthcoming seasons.  

 “One of the biggest things we took away was that we can be competitive at a national level,” said co-captain Tahri Phillips, ’23.  

 “Another big takeaway was simply valuing every single day on-court because after ODACs we thought we were done,” Phillips continued. “I think a lot of us are really trying to embody that this season too, just enjoying the time that we have because life is crazy and unpredictable. The only thing we can predict is what we have in front of us.” 

 Last spring, the women’s team graduated four seniors, Megan Horn, Kate Grogninger, Erin Addison and Jordan Diehl, who were instrumental to the program’s success. Phillips believes last year’s pack of seasoned players helped strengthen the team culture. 

 “We just had a lot of returning chemistry to build off of and I also think, last year was the first in which pretty much the entire team really bought into our motto of ‘strive together,’” Phillips said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our most successful season came on the heels of doing that work around our team culture and identity, paired with having a lot of returners.” 

 This year’s roster looks exceptionally different from its predecessor. The current team consists of seven first-years and Olivia Bernston, ’24, who make their collegiate basketball debuts this season. While the large freshmen class shows promise for the program’s future, it also provides unique challenges for the present team.  

 “We’re a very different team this year and are still working to figure out our new identity,” Clancy said. “I think the two losses we’ve had are the result of us just trying to find our rhythm together.” 

 Clancy observed a notable disparity in terms of physical strength and depth when competing against higher-level teams like NYU last year. The Blue and White dedicated more time in the weight room during the preseason and have capitalized on their added depth of skill. In the eight games played so far, eight different Generals have scored double-digit points. The surge of first-year talent has been fundamental to this success, as well as the consistent growth of veteran players. 

 “Mary Schleusner has made an immediate impact as a first-year — her athleticism, length, and motor make her a match-up problem for our opponents,” Clancy said. “Meanwhile, Junior Grace O’Connor has stepped into a bigger role as a floor leader for us and she is gaining more confidence every game, recently having a big performance in our win at SVU.” 

 O’Connor has led the team in scoring, tallying 226 points for the Generals in eight games played. Hanna Malik, ’24, and Schleusner trail with 204 and 196 points respectively. 

 The Generals hope its enhanced player repertoire will yield another NCAA appearance. This time around, the team aims to reach Nationals on their own terms with an ODAC tournament victory. The program’s lone ODAC championship came over a decade ago in 2010. Despite historically strong regular season performances, Women’s Basketball has struggled with peaking at the right moment, particularly during ODACs.  

 “In order to make a deep run in the ODAC tournament, you need the team to be healthy, confident, and playing some of their best basketball of the season,” Clancy said. “As we get deeper into the season, we will work to really lock in on our defense and rebounding so that we can compete at a higher level even if we’re having an off shooting day.” 

 Following finals week, Women’s Basketball will return to action December 17, traveling to Pennsylvania to compete in the Elizabethtown Tournament. After winter break, the Blue and White will compete against the top-five nationally ranked Christopher Newport University before exclusively facing other ODAC teams for the remainder of the regular season.  

 “I’m really excited for the opportunity to play CNU because last season they were ranked number one in the country,” Phillips said. “And then Shenandoah, Randolph, and Roanoke beat us last year so I’m looking forward to going on a revenge tour, of sorts.”