Starters Stephanie Holzer and Christina Foggie were on the bench, listed day-to-day with back spasms for the 6-4 center and a concussion that Christina suffered in a hard fall at Bowling Green last Wednesday. Both are listed day-to-day.
Head Coach Melanie Balcomb attributed the loss to poor defense and the inexperience of youth. "We didn't defend. We didn't get the stops we needed."
The game's featured player agreed. "Denver outworked us and outhustled us," Hannah said. "We knew all of our stuff, we just didn't execute. It's more our fault I would say than Denver, not to discredit them at all. They're definitely a good team and they played with a lot of heart. We just didn't play hard when we needed to until the very end of the game."
Vandy trailed 28-29 at the half after Denver's Brianna Culberson hit a 3-pointer with 2 seconds to go. Culberson led all scorers with 22 points. Denver's Kaetlyn Murdoch had 16 points, Britteni Rice had 12 and Quincey Noonan, a former Hannah teammate, with 10 points.
Nine seconds into the second half, Jence hit a pair of free throws to put Vandy back in the lead. The ‘Dores led by five points at the 17:50 mark, but would get no closer. The Pioneers were up by 10 with 2:51 left in the game.
Hannah, whose high school friends and family numbered nearly 50 in a large group of followers, was appreciative of their support. At times, "Tuomi Tsunami" and "Tuomi Nation" were heard, with cheers led by her brother Ryan.
"It was great to have my old coaches and my family there to see me play and cheer for me," Hannah acknowledged. "It was definitely exciting to play in Denver and have the opportunity to have all my friends and family there."
Jence said it was a huge disappointment to lose this senior game for her friend and teammate. "Hannah was in front of her home crowd so she was taking pride in this game and we hoped to win this for her. At the end we were doing all we could to get the win, but unfortunately we came up short."
It was the first start of the season for sophomore guard Gabby Smith, who replaced Christina Foggie in the lineup.
Given the change in the lineup with injuries and back-to-back losses, the co-captains summed up what Vanderbilt needs to do to get back on the winning track.
"I think we just need to have some self evaluation and each person needs to look at what they're individually bringing to the team," Jence said "Everyone just needs to step it up another notch and work that much harder and bring that much more heart and that much more effort at every practice, every game. Everything that we do, we need to bring more."
Hannah adds, "We have a lot of players who can contribute. When one player goes down, it's important for other players to step up by taking a new role or doing whatever they can to contribute and add value to the team. It's important that no matter who goes down or gets hurt, that we all come together and still play our best."
The season is still somewhat early, and at 4-3, this young Vandy team has six games left before Southeastern Conference play begins.
"We'll figure it out," Jence assures. "It's just taking time. We have good teammates, we just have to do it for each other. We have to figure out how to do that. It will take time but we'll get there."
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Hannah's parents David and Jackie with a show of support.
Hannah's 10-year old second cousin cheers on the 'Dores.
Posters encouraged fan favorite Hannah to do well at her homecoming.
Hannah hits a layup for season-high 17 points.
The trio of co-captains, Rebecca Silinski, Hannah and Jence Rhoads defend.
Jasmine Lister hits a 3-pointer.