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ACC Women's Preview #8 - Virginia

2000 Roundup:
25-9, 13-3 ACC

Head Coach: Debbie Ryan

Who's Leaving:

Robinson, Renee/ G, 5-6 (9.7 ppg, 4.8 apg, 4.1 rpg)
Hosac, Lisa/ F, 6-2 (8.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.6 spg)
Stovall, Erin/ G, 5-9 (13.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.2 apg)

Who's Coming Back: (* = projected starter)

*LaRue, Schuye/ C-F, 6-3, So. (14.4 ppg, 8 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 1.6 spg,1.4 apg,58%FG)
*Volnaya, Svetlana/ F, 6-1, Sr. (13.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 43% 3FG, 2.5 apg)
*Quarles, Telisha/ G, 5-8, Jr. (12.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 37% 3FG)
*Mitchelson, Dean'na/ F, 6-2, Sr. (3.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Lias, Chalois/ F, 6-1, Sr. (2.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 21 blocks)
Kravchenko, Elena/ C, 6-10, Sr. (3 ppg, 1.2 rpg)
Dickson, Marcie/ F, 6-1, So. (2.3 ppg)

Who's New:

Prillaman, Anna/ G, 6-0
*Whitaker, Chelsea/ G, 5-9
Grant, Safiya/ G, 5-6
Crosswhite, Anna/ F, 6-1 (Redshirt)
Ambrose, Kristin/ G, 5-11

Strengths: Shooting, quickness

Ball-handling, depth, rebounding

Scouting Report: No team has endured more drama in the last year than the
Virginia Cavaliers. First, the team's best player, Erin Stovall, goes on
a mysterious "leave of absence" and eventually is not invited back to the
squad. This is after the team struggled to a 4-4 start, including a blowout
loss at Duke. The team managed to rebound spectacularly after that, blowing
through the ACC and claiming a first place finish. After being beaten by
nemesis UNC in the ACC tournament, they rebounded yet again to a solid NCAA
tournament performance, giving Tennessee all they wanted before falling.
Before the season began, Coach Ryan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one
of the deadlier forms of the disease. But she's not taking the year off and
is in fact more enthusiastic than ever. Most recently, one of UVa's post
recruits was just declared ineligible for this season, and another announced
that she was pregnant and would be sitting this year out. Last but not least,
long-time assistant Shawn Campbell left Virginia to join Dawn Staley run
her fledgling Temple program.

One can detect a theme here: resilience. The Cavs succeeded because they
concentrated on what assets they did have, not on what they were missing.
They also overachieved because they became more unified. Stovall was an
amazing talent, but she apparently had problems fitting in with the rest of
the offense. Young players like LaRue and Quarles stepped in immediately
and showed amazing maturity and toughness. Older players like Volnaya
raised the level of their games, especially on offense. Virginia won by
masking their weaknesses and forcing their opponents to play their game.
And the name of that game was speed. After losing stars DeMya Walker and
Monick Foote, the Cavs focused their attention on a powerful perimeter
attack. It began with Robinson, who finally developed her jumper enough
to be a legitimate offensive threat. She already was a top-notch defender
and distributor, and her steady, patient style was a perfect complement
to the more flamboyant games of Volnaya, Quarles and LaRue. She gave the
Cavs someone who could withstand ball pressure and someone who could deliver
the right pass at the right time. Replacing her will be difficult.

Robinson's efficiency led to Virginia's other big strength: shooting.
They were second in the league in FG% and three point FG%. They had three
players in the league's top 11 scorers. LaRue led the league in overall
FG% and Volnaya in 3 point %. Quarles was not far behind. With LaRue in
the post, Volnaya & Quarles on the wings and Robinson running the show,
Virginia's balance was very difficult to stop.

Which is not to say that there weren't problems. Virginia had trouble
dealing with teams that were equally athletic, so UNC managed to beat them
twice. Their turnover margin was only average, and they didn't turn the
other team over very much. Their scoring defense was also simply average.
This problem was rooted mostly in one factor: rebounding. Beyond LaRue
and Hosac (who accounted for nearly 2/5 of the entire team's rebounding
totals), there was no one who was able to establish themselves in the post.
Their overall rebound margin was -1.5, fourth worst in the league. They
were outrebounded in 7 of their 9 losses. With their perimeter-oriented
offense, they also sometimes struggled when the shots wouldn't fall, especially
if teams took their chances by going zone. Still, the Hoos shot so well
and played so efficiently as a unit that most of their opponents were unable to
exploit their weaknesses.

As for this year, Virginia has a Big Three (LaRue, Volnaya & Quarles) and
a lot of questions. The biggest is at point guard, where the steady Robinson
had a career year as a senior. Prillaman and Whitaker will both get a shot
at the starting spot, and I suspect both will get to play a lot of minutes
as the year progresses. Whitaker is a top 100 player, and her pedigree will
probably give her the starting nod. Grant and Ambrose will get a shot as
Quarles' back-up, but I suspect that only one will have the opportunity
to get significant minutes. Quarles was a revelation last year, smoothly
filling in for Stovall. While a bit undersized, her quickness and release
made her a major force. She uses screens better than anyone in the league.
She has a great shot at being All-ACC this year after making the honorable
mention list last year.

Volnaya had a sensational year, earning first team All-ACC honors on her
way to becoming one of the league's top scorers. She was not only a deadly
shooter from behind the arc, she was also quite adept at getting to the free
throw line, leading the team with 139 attempts. She naturally nailed them
when she got there, ranking 7th in the ACC at 76%. Like Quarles, she's also
a good passer and unselfish. She is not, however, a great defender. With
Quarles presenting matchup problems defensively, this will be a concern for
2001. Who will emerge as perimeter stopper? Another concern is frontcourt
depth. The only currently viable wing backup is Lias, a player who isn't
much of a shooter and who doesn't have a lot of experience. Crosswhite
has potential, but this redshirt frosh from Australia is a bit of an
unknown. Dickson is supposedly a good shooter, but she also has little
experience. Volnaya must be prepared to play a lot of minutes.

The team's biggest star and certain first team All-ACC selection is the
incredible LaRue. I'll start with her weaknesses because they are few:
she's turnover prone (nearly 3 a game) and her foul shooting is mediocre
(65%). These are correctable problems, and I expect her to iron them out.
Other than that, she's simply the best player in the league. She's big
and strong enough to deal with any post player in the league. She's a
superior rebounder (4th in the league) and shotblocker (2nd). Her post
moves are flawless. Her short range jumpers are extremely effective. She's
aggressive but is rarely in serious foul trouble. She is a surprisingly
adept passer. The only player who can seriously give her problems down
low is State's Chones. But with Robinson gone, she will need to be patient
when waiting for the ball, and will have to deal with being made the focal
point of other defenses. She will battle Tech's Butler, Duke's Schweitzer
and UNC's Barksdale for player of the year, but I suspect that she will win

It's fortunate for UVa that she's so good, because the rest of Virginia's
paint players are a mixed bag. Mitchelson is returning from a knee injury
but has the potential to be a utility player who can pick up the slack that
the departing Hosac left. Kravchenko has been a career-long project whose
lack of strength has prevented her from making any significant impact, and
I don't see that really changing. What's worse, frosh Brandi Teamer is
ineligible and fellow frosh Joanna Kemp is pregnant and will sit out this

The bottom line is that UVa's big three is better than anyone else's in
the league, but they have little margin for error. They can't stand up to
Duke or State's depth and versatility and must avoid foul trouble at all
costs. At minimum, the point guard must be able to run the team efficiently;
any offensive prowess will be a bonus. And someone must step up at power
forward to help LaRue, who will be facing double teams all year long. Virginia
could easily win the league again if they're not hit by injuries and receive
some great play from an unexpected source, but it's likely they will be
in a close battle with Duke and State all year long. Debbie Ryan's cancer
might become a factor down the line, because battling the disease is a
draining process. Her assistants must be ready to operate without her at
times. Hopefully, UVa will be able to avoid any further drama and just
play ball. With LaRue, Volnaya and Quarles, this will be a genuinely fun
team to watch.

Schedule Analysis: The Hoos have a typically strong schedule. They're in
this year's WNIT and could wind up playing Purdue, Texas or Louisiana Tech.
They'll begin with Mount St. Mary's and might play decent George Washington
in the second game. They'll also play in-state rival and perennial power
Old Dominion, as well as another strong state program, Virginia Tech.
The Cavs will go to California to play strong UCSB and less strong Cal St.
Northridge. While they'll be able to feast on the likes of Loyola, St. Francis
and Hampton, mid-major programs St. Joseph's and Liberty will be no
pushovers. In fact, St Joseph's beat the Hoos last year in Charlottesville,
Virginia's only home loss of the season. Richmond rounds out a very
difficult slate, but not quite as challenging as NC State's.

Predicted finish: