Lady Lions gearing up for challenging 2017-18 hoops schedule

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HAMMOND, La. – The Southeastern Louisiana women’s basketball team will begin a new era in 2017-18 under the direction of first-year head coach and Hammond native Ayla Guzzardo.

With an influx of new talent and a solid veteran corps, Guzzardo has high hopes for her improved roster.

“We’ve brought in a different caliber of athlete with our newcomers and we think all of them will have immediate positive impacts,” Guzzardo commented. “All of our returners have been working hard during the offseason. We feel confident about where we are heading into preseason practice.”

Southeastern’s top returners are senior guard Taylin Underwood and sophomore guard Charliee Dugas. Underwood was an All-Southland Conference and All-Louisiana choice last season after leading the team with 18.6 points per game – the highest single-season scoring average by a Lady Lion since the 1999-00 season. Dugas was tabbed the Louisiana Freshman of the Year after contributing 10.7 points per game in her debut season out of Rayne High School.

Guzzardo says her top two scorers are not the only ones to make strides during the offseason.

“Taylin and Charliee have both done amazing in their preseason work,” Guzzardo said. “But we also have (sophomore guard) Tyler Morrison back stronger and fully healthy after she missed some time with an elbow injury last season. She’s going to be a major contributor for us in 2017-18.

“(Senior forward) Tytiana Hall has had an outstanding preseason and has been playing with a high motor that we need her to maintain during the season,” Guzzardo added. “(Senior guard) Bre Warren will play a key role for us with her defensive and shooting ability.”

Guzzardo and her staff are also excited about the quartet of new players – junior transfers Jyar Francis and Kyla Williams, as well as the athletic freshman duo of forward Caitlyn Williams and wing Morgan Carrier.

“Jyar has been sitting out as a transfer from Wichita State and has completely transformed her game during her time off,” Guzzardo commented. “She will give us a huge boost when we add her to the mix at the end of the fall semester. Kyla comes to us from Hutchinson CC and works hard every day. She is an excellent rebounder and gives us a good interior defender, which is something we were lacking last season.

“Caitlyn is going to be an All-Southland Conference player for us during her four years and has improved greatly since she’s been here,” Guzzardo added. “Morgan is very athletic and plays with great energy and we’re fortunate to have her with us for the next four years.”

The Lady Lions will see their first on-court action on Nov. 3, when they host LSU Alexandria for a 6 p.m. exhibition in the University Center. SLU officially opens the season on Nov. 10, hosting Alcorn State at 5:30 p.m. in the UC. Other non-conference opponents visiting Hammond this season include UL Lafayette (Dec. 13, 7 p.m.) and Alabama A&M (Dec. 21, 2 p.m.).

SLU opens its road schedule on Nov. 12 with a 2 p.m. contest at LSU. Following that game, the Lady Lions will be at Cincinnati for a 6 p.m. game with the Bearcats on Nov. 15. The ensuing weekend will serve as a homecoming of sorts for Guzzardo, as SLU competes versus Akron and Kent State on Nov. 17 and 18 in the Akron Classic. Guzzardo coached for four seasons and played for two for the host Zips.

“If I had to pick my favorite game on our non-conference schedule, it would have to be the Akron game,” Guzzardo said. “It will be a game that’s near and dear to my heart and I’m looking forward to bringing our team up there to show what we can do.”

Other road games on the slate for Southeastern during non-conference play include contests at Bethune-Cookman (Nov. 26), Grambling (Nov. 30), TCU (Dec. 10) and Auburn (Dec. 19).

“We need experience with this roster,” Guzzardo said. “We need to learn what it’s like to be on the road and get accustomed to those long bus trips. We’re not taking any shortcuts with our non-conference schedule, but it will serve as great preparation for Southland Conference play.”

The Lady Lions will open league action with three consecutive road games at Stephen F. Austin (Dec. 28), Central Arkansas (Dec. 31) and Abilene Christian (Jan. 6), before opening the home portion of its league schedule on Jan. 10 versus Lamar. Those first four opponents were also the top four finishers in last year’s Southland standings.

“We definitely face a tough start to conference play,” Guzzardo said. “But we’re excited to face that challenge. We’ll find out a lot about our character and our will to win when facing adversity.”

Other trips during league play will take Southeastern to Houston Baptist (Jan. 17), Nicholls (Jan. 27), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Jan. 31), McNeese (Feb. 10), UNO (Feb. 14) and Northwestern State (Feb. 24). Teams visiting Hammond include McNeese (Jan. 13), Northwestern State (Jan. 20), Sam Houston State (Jan. 24), Central Arkansas (Feb. 3), Incarnate Word (Feb. 7), Abilene Christian (Feb. 17), UNO (Feb. 28) and Nicholls (March 3).

The top eight teams in the conference standings will advance to the league tournament, scheduled for March 7-11 at the Merrell Center in Katy, Texas. SLU will be looking to advance to the postseason for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

“Making it back to Katy is obviously one of our goals,” Guzzardo said. “But our main objective is to get better every day. We’ve been able to do that so far thanks to our student-athletes’ hard work.”

Southeastern will officially open practice on Oct. 1 in preparation for the 2017-18 season.

2017-18 Southeastern Louisiana Women’s Basketball Schedule

(All times are Central)

Date – Opponent –Location – Time

11/3 – LSU Alexandria (Exhibition) – Hammond – 6 p.m.

11/10 – Alcorn State – Hammond – 5:30 p.m.

11/12 – at LSU – Baton Rouge – 2 p.m.

11/15 – at Cincinnati – Cincinnati, Ohio – 6 p.m.

11/17 – at Akron (Akron Classic) – Akron, Ohio – 6:30 p.m.

11/18 – vs. Kent State (Akron Classic) – Akron, Ohio – 11 a.m.

11/26 – at Bethune-Cookman – Daytona Beach, Fla. – 2 p.m.

11/30 – at Grambling – Grambling – 6 p.m.

12/10 – at TCU – Fort Worth, Texas – 2 p.m.

12/13 – UL Lafayette – Hammond – 7 p.m.

12/19 – at Auburn – Auburn, Ala. – TBA

12/21 – Alabama A&M – Hammond – 2 p.m.

12/28 – at Stephen F. Austin* — Nacogdoches, Texas – 7 p.m.

12/31 – at Central Arkansas* — Conway, Ark. – 1 p.m.

1/6 – at Abilene Christian* — Abilene, Texas – 2 p.m.

1/10 – Lamar* — Hammond – 7 p.m.

1/13 – McNeese* — Hammond – 2 p.m.

1/17 – at Houston Baptist* — Houston, Texas – 7 p.m.

1/20 – Northwestern State* — Hammond – 2 p.m.

1/24 – Sam Houston State* — Hammond – 7 p.m.

1/27 – at Nicholls* – Thibodaux – TBA

1/31 – at A&M-Corpus Christi* – Corpus Christi, Texas – 7 p.m.

2/3 – Central Arkansas* – Hammond – 2 p.m.

2/7 – Incarnate Word* — Hammond – 7 p.m.

2/10 – at McNeese* — Lake Charles – 1 p.m.

2/14 – at UNO* — New Orleans – TBA

2/17 – Abilene Christian – Hammond – 2 p.m.

2/24 – at Northwestern State – Natchitoches – TBA

2/28 – UNO – Hammond – 7 p.m.

3/3 – Nicholls – Hammond – 2 p.m.

3/7-11 – at Southland Conference Tournament – Katy, Texas – TBA

Southeastern home games in bold

* – Southland Conference gamem/sluathletics

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