Coming off its second Region 10 regular-season championship, the Catawba Valley Community College women’s basketball program will look for more even success as it heads into the 2019-20 season.
The Red Hawks are coming off a 2018-19 season in which they went 24-6 overall and 17-3 in Region 10 games — the program’s third straight 20-win season.
“I’m looking forward to another successful year,” said Tisha England, who enters her seventh season as head coach of the program. “Every year, I feel like we can win the conference. That’s just the competitive side of me as a coach and a former student-athlete myself. I believe that every year we should win the conference.”
Five players return from last season’s Red Hawk women’s basketball team, including guards Deja Ross, Tazah Hardin and Aniya Taylor, forward Ivy Eller and center Diamond Steward.
England has been impressed with her sophomore group.
“They’re definitely a diverse group,” she said. “Ivy Eller, who was a big part of our success last year as a freshman, had a little injury toward the end of the season. She’s coming back, and I’m expecting even greater things from her. Tazah brings energy as a point guard and guard, and Aniya has a lot of creativity. I’m excited about this group.”
The Red Hawks also have a sophomore transfer in Aliyah Chaplin, who comes to CVCC from Louisburg College.
“Aliyah is very diverse,” England said. “She can play guard as well as power forward. This team is definitely different, but all of my teams are different. I’m excited.”
Also new to the Red Hawks are a group of five freshman, including guards MaKayla Weaver, Tearra Pace and Ariana Montgomery and forwards Jordan Jenkins and Jailen Cummings.
“I’ve got a couple of great freshman who are mature for their age,” England said. “They’ve got great work ethic. They want to hustle. They give me everything that they have. They are very active. I’m excited about them as well. There is a lot of work to be done, but we will get it accomplished.”
England has been satisfied with her team this preseason for how it’s continued to develop.
“I’m proud of our girls for their growth,” she said. “Every day we are growing. We are getting better every single day. I can’t complain about that. I definitely would like to be a little deeper off the bench, but as long as they give me everything that they have everything is going to work out.”
A lot of that growth came during the Catawba Valley women’s basketball team’s trip to Chicago to play in the JUCO Jamboree last month.
England said the event was extremely beneficial for her group heading into the season.
“We played against a lot of great teams — even teams that were in the national tournament,” England said. “A couple of teams that we played were top in their Region or area. There was a variety of talent coming from different states. We are seeing that we can compete with anybody if we just give everything that we have.”
This year’s team motto is “Withholding Nothing” — a slogan that England hopes will drive her players both on and off the court.
“We want to give everything that we have,” she said. “I’m going to stretch them and push them to make them the best that they can be. I don’t want them to hold anything back from me or hold anything back from themselves. I want them to give everything that they have and lay it out on the line on a daily basis — whether it’s in practice, in a game, in the classroom — no matter what.”
The biggest change the CVCC women’s basketball team will have to embrace this season will be the additions (Southwest Virginia, Johnston) and subtraction (Clinton) of teams in Region 10.
Despite those changes in the conference, England knows her team will always have a target on its back.
“Everyone always comes for the Red Hawks,” England said. “We’ve got new teams in our conference, but every year is a new year and different. Regardless, we always want to compete and be the best that we can be.”
Benefiting the Red Hawks will be a schedule that features nine straight home games to start the season.
England sees the perks and disadvantages of having so many home games to start the 2019-20 campaign.
“We can get comfortable with the court and have the support from the fans, the community and family members,” she said. “Parents being able to come watch their daughter play at a close base is nice. That right there takes a positive end because you’ve eventually got to go on the road.”
CVCC opens its 2019-20 season today at 5:30 p.m. against the Converse JV team, and England is excited for her players to start their journey.
“It came quicker than we anticipated, but we’re always excited to get our foot in the door and play this game,” England said. “Of course, there are going to be some nerves and some anxiousness. There are going to be a lot of different emotions going on, but we’re going to go out there and give everything that we have.”