"I've been feeling good and working hard. Everyone's been working hard," she adds. "I'm so excited to finally get to play and everyone is really very supportive. We're going to do great things this year. We practice every day like we're going to the Final Four. That's really our goal this year. With what we have and what we expect of ourselves, we know what we can accomplish together can be something great. Anything less than that for us just wouldn't be good enough."
Junior Jordan Coleman will be back in action at the season's start. The forward was leading team stats in several areas early last season when she went down December 3 with a torn ACL.
Senior Jence Rhoads was without the arm sling she's been wearing since taking a tumble during a pickup game and landing on her wrist. "It's feeling a lot better. I can shoot with it a little. I've got one more doctor visit and an x-ray to go," she said, expecting good news for clearance from that appointment.
About those glamour shots, new NCAA rules forbid use of media guides for recruiting, so the upcoming Vanderbilt "Fact Book" will contain very few images besides headshots. Assistant Communications Director Ryan Schulz said the book will be strictly purposed for media, containing rosters, bios, stats and history.
Jence, Rebecca Silinski and Angela Puleo were fine with missing an occasion to dress up. "This is my glamour shot," Angela said, playfully raising knee-length shorts a tad higher.
Hannah Tuomi, who rarely shows on court without a scrape from battling in the paint, was a bit more vocal. "Yeah, I kind of like to get out of my uniform and get dressed up. It's nice to be in normal clothes so people see what you look like. Some people don't recognize you out of the uniform let's just say."
Under the basket, sophomore forward Tiffany Clarke can also be tough as nails, and they were glittery purple for the photo shoot. She also took a good bit of ribbing from her teammates for the amount of lip gloss evident with her smile. "It's popping," she's told. "She puts it on with a big paint brush, just dips it right on there," Gabby Smith joked. "Like a roller you use on a house," someone else added. Tiffany shrugged it off with good-natured sass. "You're all just haters because you don't have my lips, I'm just saying."
For her own look, Gabby sported a slimmed down ‘do. She was encouraged by Head Coach Melanie Balcomb to straighten up – her mass of curls during last year's team photo were too eye-catching. "Last year during the NCAA tournament, we had our team picture in the program. And Coach came up to me waving it, and she said, ‘Gabby, what's the first thing you look at when you see this team picture?' And the answer was ‘my hair,' because it was kind of big last year. I promised her I would straighten it this year."
Elan Brown was a bit disappointed she and Stephanie couldn't repeat the pose they struck last year, as the Philadelphia center hoisted her during their freshman shot. "We tried to recreate it, but it didn't work out as well." Asked delicately if perhaps weight was an issue, she replied, "I sure hope I gained weight or Tash (Weddle) would be kind of mad if I didn't."
Elan and Stephanie are also classmates this year. They are taking geology and country music courses together. "We're just getting some background now," Stephanie said, adding that later they will learn about country's new artists and go into the city to review a concert and write a paper about it.
Vandy's freshmen were thrilled with the black uniforms. Christina Foggie (#10), Tori Jarosz (#44) and Kayci Ferris (#45) are wearing their high school numbers. "Yeah, we're getting in the flow of this," Christina said. Tori, clearly enjoying the moment, added, "This is fun putting on the jerseys for the first time. It's starting to set in that we're really on the team now."
With the season about six weeks away, the players hope to fulfill the promise of the phrase on their weight lifting jerseys: "Nostaa kova meteli" (Finnish for "raise a ruckus").
For more team updates, follow @wbbVandyMania on Twitter.com.
Jasmine Lister, 5-5, and Kayci Ferris, 6-8.
Gabby Smith and Jordan Coleman before the team photo.
Christina Foggie and Tiffany Clarke.
Hannah Tuomi flashes her "Sisu" tat for perseverance.
Christina, Kayci, Clair, Tori and Jasmine strike a pose.
Sophomores Elan, Stephanie, Gabby and Tiffany.
Seniors Hannah, Rebecca and Jence.
One of several group shots taken during the two-hour shoot.