VandyMania Interview: Jenni Benningfield

The Vanderbilt women's basketball team (2-0)opened its season with a pair of road wins in the BankNorth Classic in Burlington, Vt., but neither win came easily. The Commodores' All-America candiate, senior forward Jenni Benningfield, sat down with VandyMania to reflect on the two games.


VandyMania: The opening game against South Alabama was a struggle, but the team seemed to get better on Saturday night [a 65-54 win over host Vermont]. There seemed to be a lot of improvement from Friday to Saturday.

Jenni Benningfield: Yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, one thing that we really focused on is that we watched film Saturday on Friday's game, which wasn't pretty, but it was not something that we all wanted to do, but we had to do it. We had to change our defense from Friday, and we had to make some changes, because if we didn't make those changes Saturday, then it would have been a really hard game to win. Vermont is a really tough team. It was hard to watch Friday's game, because it wasn't pretty, but we pulled through it and we learned from it, and we made changes out on the court on Saturday.

VM: What are some of the kinds of changes that you made?

Jenni: On our zone, just making sure that people are in the right spot at the right time, just really covering the areas that we're supposed to be covering, just really trying to get everybody to understand it. And I think a main key is really trusting in each other that if somebody gets by one of us that the people in the back are really going to help and stop the person. It's really just learning to trust each other, which I think we're not there yet, but we definitely took a big step with that on Saturday, because our defense was so much better that night than it was on Friday.

VM: Was there a lot of tightness or tenseness in the opener?

Jenni: Oh yeah. I think we were all tight. Friday night was severely tight, I think, with it being the first game -- obviously the first game of the season but also the first game for the freshmen. We normally shoot better than we did, in both games for that matter, but we're just trying get our nerves out. We have that first tournament behind us now. We know what to expect, and also what it's like to be on the road. I think the freshmen started to understand that we're never going to get calls to go our way. It's going to be a hostile environment with the home team's crowd, and that kind of thing that all plays into the game itself. So that was good because now we know what to expect. It's been a learning experience, definitely, from those two games, and people stepped up in the two games. I didn't have the best game I've ever had by far in those two games, and it was awesome to see people step up and for them to know that it's not about me, it's about our whole team, it's about everybody stepping up for us to get a W, and that's exactly what we did.

VM: Personally, you came back in the Saturday game, too.

Jenni: Oh yeah, I felt a lot more confident on Saturday. I was real tight on Friday. I still was a little tight on Saturday, but that's just going to get better. The first couple of games of the season are always rough anyway, and for us to make as big of a leap, not only for myself but for the team, from Friday night to Saturday night is definitely a confidence booster.

VM: You, Hillary [Hager], and Ashley [Earley] are having to assume so much more responsibility than last year. Do you think that contributed to the tenseness in the opener?

Jenni: I think so. We know we're out there. We're trying to get the freshmen ready while also trying to get ourselves ready, and there's a lot more freshmen than we're used to. But it wasn't even so much that. I think all of that stuff plays a role. But now it's behind us, so hopefully we can get that out of the way, and we're going to be playing at home next weekend, so that's also a good thing. We're still obtaining all of our goals that we set for the season. We're still undefeated. We won our first tournament, winning on the road, stuff like that. So hopefully we'll go from there and try to do the same thing. We'll see! Top Stories