Women’s basketball returns 10 players, tips off new season


Hiatt Ellis

App State huddles up during its 67-61 victory over ULM Jan. 22, 2022.

Ben Brady, Reporter

App State women’s basketball retains 10 players and welcomes five newcomers as its season in a new-look Sun Belt Conference approaches. 

On July 1 of this year, James Madison, Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Mississippi each officially joined the conference in place of the departing Little Rock and UT-Arlington. Mountaineers’ head coach Angel Elderkin noted that the increase in conference competition is not only good for her team, but for the conference as a whole. 

“They all come from excellent institutions with passionate fan bases,” Elderkin said. “It will not only give us an opportunity to grow, but they’re going to raise the floor of the Sun Belt, so I’m extremely excited about them joining us.”

The Mountaineers welcome guards Alexis Black, Chaé Harris and Lexi Grant, and forward Nadiyah Byard as freshmen newcomers. The team also acquired graduate student guard Lauren Carter from Morehead State in the offseason. 

At the start of last season, App State’s number of newcomers outweighed its number of returning players. With a core of returning players this year, veterans such as redshirt senior guard Janay Sanders understand the culture the team has instituted and her role as a leader for the new faces. 

“We have a standard and we know what that is, and where we want to be,” Sanders said. “We just hope that the newcomers are looking up to us and seeing that we are doing that.”

Assistant coaches Alex Frazier and Jazz Weaver also joined the program in the offseason to work alongside the returning Mark Cascio. Elderkin emphasized the significance of the new young coaching duo’s role in connecting with each of the players. 

“I think it was really important to bring in people that can connect with our players,” Elderkin said. “We have a style and a system, so I was looking for people to come here and pour into our players and execute the mission of App State women’s basketball.”

The Mountaineers finished 14-12 last season with an 8-4 conference record, good for fourth in the Sun Belt. Sanders believes that the difference in the team’s play this year will be the commitments each player has made to fulfilling multiple roles.

“Everybody brings something different to the team this year,” Sanders said. “To have such a diverse group of players is something that we’ve been working on and something that makes us unique this year.”

Another concept the team has implemented heavily into their preparation for the season is paying attention to the specifics of each game. With new opponents and 11 out-of-conference matchups, the Mountaineers understand the importance of sticking to their values and taking the schedule one game at a time. 

“Our attention to detail has grown so much this year,” Sanders said. “We know that this year is going to be different for us, so just staying locked in on who we want to be and what we want to do is our strongest focus right now.” 

With an experienced team defined by versatility, and a handful of dynamic newcomers, Elderkin believes that if her team can execute to their full potential, they have an opportunity to win any given night. 

“We’re really excited about this year’s group,” Elderkin said. “If we can be the best version of App State, I think we give ourselves the best chance night in and night out.”

The Mountaineers tipped off their season on the road with a 98-94 loss at Charlotte Tuesday.