Sometimes a team’s record doesn’t tell the entire story. That’s the case with UTRGV Vaqueros women’s basketball team from last year. Of their fourteen losses in 2020-2,1 five (including three straight in WAC play) were by ten points or less. Now the Vaqueros look to rebound from that disappointment of a year ago. And the Vaqueros have pieces in place to do that. Lane Lord returns 11 players from the 2020-21 squad including All-WAC performer Sara Bershers. However, UTRGV lost its leading scorer, Amara Graham, in the offseason. Graham transferred to Grand Canyon.
Lane Lord, 4th Season
Overall: 345-168, 171-87
In Edinburg: 37-46, 20-22
2020-21: 6-14 Overall, 2-8 WAC
Postseason: Lost in 1st round of the WAC Tournament
Sara Bershers, 6’0, JR, G
Burcu Soysal, 6’5, GR, C
Jena’ Williams, 5’8, JR, G
Amara Graham, 5’6, GR, G
Jordan Lewis, 5’9, JR, G
Maria Llorente, 5’9, JR, G (JUCO)
Brooke Jessen, 6’0, FR, F
Predicted WAC Finish
Amara Graham and Jordan Lewis were two of the WAC’S bigger offseason transfers.
Graham used the Grad Transfer rule and ended up in Phoenix with Grand Canyon and 2nd year head coach Molly Miller. She was the conference scoring champion in 2020-21 at 16.5 points per game. Graham shot 36.6 percent from 3-point range and 45.2 percent in total while adding 5.3 Rebounds, 2.7 Assists, and 1.3 Steals per game.
Lewis, meanwhile, transferred to Rogers State after averaging 8.3 points, and 4.9 rebounds per game last year. She was a sub 30-percent 3-point shooter at 27.7 percent but was 32.1 percent in total field goal percentage.
Sara Bershers was the Vaqueros second leading scorer a year ago at 13.9 points per game. Bershers will have to pick up some of the scoring vacated by Graham and Lewis. In 2020-21, Bershers shot 35.1 percent from 3-point range and 36.8 percent from the field. Defensively, Bershers was the team’s leading shot blocker and rebounder.
LaneLord had this to say about his veteran guard.
“Sara Bershers had an outstanding sophomore campaign and she proved to be one of the best players in the WAC. She will be an impact player for us again this season.”
“Last season was obviously tough on everyone due to the pandemic,” Lord continued. “But everyone is re-energized and ready to get back to work with a normal summer of workouts and skill development. With 11 returners leading the way, the coaching staff has high expectations for this year’s team. The 2021 summer workouts will allow our 11 returners to lead our six newcomers and build team chemistry for the upcoming season.”
Jena’ Williams was the team’s leader in assists at just a shade under four per game while averaging 6.0 points per game.
From Volleyball to Basketball
Lord added a grad transfer in Taylor Muff who spent the last four years at Northern Colorado as a member of their volleyball team. Muff recorded 1,118 kills along with 1,043 digs and 113 aces in 107 matches. The Bears were 2019 Big Sky Conference champions.
While in high school basketball, Muff finished as the all-time leading scorer at Pittsburg High School (Pittsburg, KS).
For the Vaqueros to be a threat they’ll have to take better care of the basketball (+98 in cumulative turnovers) and defend better as teams shot 41.5 percent against them a year ago. Teams also shot 31 percent from deep against UTRGV In 2020-21. The Vaqueros 3-point shooting percentage also needs to climb from 28.3 percent last year.