Rebecca, born in Pittsburgh but raised in Birmingham, Ala., will have several guests in attendance as will Stephanie Holzer, who hails from the Philly suburb Newtown Square. The 6-4 center and former SEC Freshman of the Week is battling back spasms and has not seen action since December 1 against Bowling Green on the road. She has been listed day-to-day.
It has not been an easy year for Jence, the floor leader and co-captain with seniors Rebecca and Hannah Tuomi. The resilient athlete suffered a broken hand in February's bout with Kentucky, but returned after sitting out two games; more recently she recovered from a broken wrist during the summer and is mending from a hamstring injury a few weeks ago.
As a senior co-captain and a spirited player, Jence is determined to keep the season on the right track, her dad said. She has a strong inner drive to win and she does it in a team-oriented style. "People like Jence not because she's a good player, but she plays the game a really great way," her father Robert, or "Posey" as he is known, said. "She gets everyone involved and she plays hard. Jence has never thought it was about her. She is focused on the win. Whatever it takes to win, go with that."
The Rhoads family is well known in western Pennsylvania's Slippery Rock, a town of 4,000 an hour north of Pittsburgh where they put down roots some 20 years ago. Mother Melinda is a former Olympian handball player and Posey is Slippery Rock University's basketball coach. Twin sisters Karly and Kourtney are freshmen ball players at Kentucky Wesleyan. It is no wonder that Jence, who grew up in this competitive environment, is motivated to excel in the game she dearly loves to play.
"When she was younger I did a lot of skill work with her in elementary and junior high," Posey recalls. He was also her AAU coach in summer leagues. "Jence and I were always in the gym doing something, When I coached at the university she was always there. We dragged that child everywhere, mostly to a gym. She used to wear a little green shirt—she was no bigger than a minute—that said ‘my dad's the coach.'"
For two years now, Posey has faced a tough opponent that he terms "just a bump in the road." Prostate cancer has prevented Posey from traveling to some of Jence's true home games, but he's determined to not let it alter his life. "I approach cancer the same way as coaching and playing. I'm not going to let it affect what I want to do. I'm going to keep putting my foot on the gas and deal with it the best I can. It's a bump in the road to me and I'm going to hop over it. You could say the same about Jence's broken hand last season. In the same quiet way, we're the same. We're resilient. We get over it. I'm a juncture where everything is going really good for me. I enjoy life and especially my girls and Vanderbilt basketball. That's what we do – basketball. "
The goose egg on the road has been partly laid by injuries and inexperience. On paper, the 2010-11 squad looks much different than the one actually playing. But even with 6-8 Kayci Ferris redshirted, 6-4 Clair Watkins sidelined with a torn ACL, 6-4 Holzer down with back spasms, starter Christina Foggie out multiple games with a concussion and Jence mending from a sprained hamstring, the team has won six games at home.
Posey is optimistic that the best is yet to come. "They'll find a way. They seem to be able to formulate a play and perform well. I have complete confidence in Jence and all the girls that they'll find a way to put together a good year."
Vanderbilt leads the Duquesne series 2-0. The Duquesne Dukes are coached by two-time Olympic gold medalist Suzie McConnell-Serio, who played basketball in the 1988 and 1992 games. She is also a Women's Basketball Hall of Famer and won WNBA Coach of the Year honors in Minnesota.
Senior forward Hannah Tuomi, SEC Co-Player of the Week after averaging 22 points and 8 rebounds in her last two games, leads Vandy scorers. Vandy leads the SEC in field-goal percentage (48.8%), three-point field-goal percentage (39.4%) and free-throw percentage (70.4%).
Sunday's game will air on radio 560 AM or watch the webcast for a fee on goduquesne.com.
The ‘Dores return to host a 7 p.m. game with Western Kentucky on Tuesday, Dec. 21.
Jence drives over Princeton for a layup.