ROCK HILL, SC–The waiting is over for the Winthrop women’s basketball team as it will open the 2013-14 season at home on Sunday when the Eagles take on a talented College of Charleston squad during Homecoming weekend at 2:00 p.m. in the Winthrop Coliseum.
Season tickets for the women’s 14-game home schedule are still available at the Winthrop ticket office and can be reserved by calling 803-323-2345. The program has already set a new record for season ticket sales in anticipation of another successful season. Fans who attend the season opener have a good chance to witness history as senior guard Dequesha McClanahan is closing in on the Winthrop women’s career scoring record. She needs only nine points to reach 1,700 points and surpass Kim Segars’ record that has stood for 25 years. She needs just 159 points to become the all-time leading scorer for both the Winthrop men and women, and has a good chance of breaking the all-time Big South women’s scoring record later this season.
Winthrop defeated College of Charleston on the road last season 63-61. It was just the second win ever for the Eagles over the Cougars who still lead the all-time series 26-2.
Expectations are high for Coach Kevin Cook’s team as the Eagles enter the season picked second behind perennial powerhouse Liberty to capture the Big South Conference championship. For this team, that means it will be entering uncharted waters. Never in the 30-year history of the conference has the Eagles been picked to challenge for the title and its prize of an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament that accompanies that feat.
But conference play seems light years away right now for a team that includes two seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen. Cook believe they are ready for the challenge. Led by two-time Big South Player of the Year and 2014 Preseason Player of the Year Dequesha McClanahan, Winthrop is coming off its most successful season and hopes to take that experience to the next level. Winthrop went 21-12 last year as the Eagles set a school record for wins as a NCAA Division I member and captured a first round victory in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. Despite falling to nationally ranked Florida in the second round, Winthrop broke more new ground by hosting that game before a record-setting crowd of 1,254 fans.
Cook is not shy when he says the goal for this year’s team is to win the Big South championship. “You could say we have some unfinished business to take care of this year,” he said, alluding to the Eagles unexpected early departure in the first round of the 2013 conference tournament after going in as a two seed.
“We are proud of what we accomplished last year with the record number of wins and winning a post-season game, but we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do and that was win a conference championship. This year our team is focused on that goal. We have set the bar extremely high. Our players have worked hard and are hungry to achieve something very special,” says Cook, who enters his second season as Winthrop’s head coach and his sixth overall as a collegiate head coach.
“We are a very young team, but at the same time we have an experienced team.” Winthrop lost just one starter (three-point sharpshooter Diana Choibekova) from last year to graduation, and then suffered a setback over the summer when rising sophomore guard Ali
yah Kilpatrick suffered an achilles tendon tear that required surgery. She will miss the entire season and her absence will be felt, but not nearly as much as it would have last year when Winthrop went into most games with just eight players dressed out.
Beginning with the opening game with the College of Charleston, the Eagles will be tested in the non-conference portion of the schedule. In addition to the Cougars, Cook has lined up Davidson, William & Mary, Saint Louis, Charlotte, and nationally ranked South Carolina. The Eagles will also face a talented UT-Martin team in the opening round of The Robert Morris Thanksgiving tournament.