Choosing a starting lineup on a game-by-game basis was the least of coach Cara Consuegra’s concerns last year.
Four players started all 32 of the Charlotte women’s basketball team’s games, and another started all but one.
As this year’s 49ers opened practice last week, Consuegra had an idea who her top five players were. But she made it clear that starting positions still needed to be earned before Charlotte opens play next month.
The 49ers will have at least three new starters this season as they look for replacements for the graduated players, who accounted for more than half the team’s points and rebounds.
Starting guards Ny Hammonds and Hillary Sigmon return and will be asked to shoulder much of the load. Charlotte promises to be more balanced and team-oriented this season, and dependent on a defensive intensity that will stretch over the entire court.
The 2012-13 season was one of the best in program history. With its 26-6 record, Charlotte was one victory shy of tying the team record for wins.
Their 13-game winning streak last season was the longest the 49ers have ever had. Charlotte has reached the postseason in each of the past 11 years, one of only 12 schools nationally to do so.
Leaving that legacy and more were seniors Jen Hailey, Amanda Dowe and Jai Forney. They parted ways with Charlotte as the winningest class ever, with 87 victories, but did not leave the cupboard bare.
“I think the thing we keep talking about is strength through sacrifice,” said Consuegra, who won more games in her first two seasons than any other Charlotte coach before her.
“Last year we went into the season and we had some very definite go-to players, some very definite people in terms of what their roles would be. This year, I’m not sure it’s quite like that.
“For us to be successful, we have to be stronger and better as a group. … We have to have a stronger rotation in terms of our depth,” Consuegra said. “Our identity is you’re going to see a team wining through the team and not necessarily one or two players.”
It was no secret that Charlotte’s offense was geared toward the post play of Hailey, the Atlantic 10’s player of the year, and Dowe, named third-team all-A10.
But sophomore Kim Gordon is the only returning post player who played in all 32 games last season.
Redshirt junior Gabby Tyler returns after sitting out all of last year with a concussion. As a sophomore, she averaged eight points and more than five rebounds.
“I didn’t play last year,” Tyler said. “I saw a lot of great things from the bench. I know I have to come in and have to fill some big shoes. I’m ready for it. I’m excited.”
With the return of Hammonds, another third-team all-Atlantic 10 player, and Sigmon, the team’s top 3-point shooter, guard play is bound to be vital.
Junior guard Ayanna Holmes, a key reserve who played in every game last year, is expected to increase her offensive production.
Consuegra said defensive pressure and intensity will define the team as much as anything. Hammonds said rigorous summer workouts helped the team prepare.
“We’ve been talking about defensive pressure a lot,” said Hammonds, who set school records last year for assists and minutes played in a season. “I know last year we didn’t have as much intensity on defense, so that’s our focus this year.”
49ers to host Dig Pink Match
The women’s volleyball team will host its annual Dig Pink Match Oct. 18, when Charlotte welcomes Tulsa to Halton Arena at 7 p.m.
In two of the past three years, the 49ers have raised the most money among all participating programs in the country. Last year, the team raised $14,045.
Dig Pink events started earlier this month. On Oct. 18, the volleyball team will host its first cornhole tournament in the Student Activity Center. Teams will receive T-shirts and can register for $20. The finals will be played on the court at halftime of the basketball game.
Men take on Top 25 teams
When the men’s soccer team plays Tulsa at 5 p.m. today in Tulsa, Okla., it will be the second time in 13 days that the 49ers have played a nationally ranked opponent.
On Oct. 1, Charlotte tied Wake Forest 1-1; the Deacons were ranked at No. 20 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll. Tulsa was ranked 23rd in the poll, released Oct. 1.
On Oct. 4, the 49ers tied New Mexico (0-0), which had just dropped out of the top 25.
Charlotte has at least one more ranked opponent on the way. On Oct. 22, the 49ers host 13th-ranked Clemson.
Women get win, tie on Alumni Weekend
The women’s soccer team came out of Alumni Weekend with a win over Texas-San Antonio and a tie with Middle Tennessee. The 49ers scored twice in the second half to salvage a 2-2 tie against Middle Tennessee.