On Wednesday afternoon after practice, Whitney D talked with the two juniors about this season and the prospect of becoming the senior leaders of the team in just a few short months. Here's what they had to say.
VandyMania: Three months from now, you're going to be the seniors.
Abi and Ashley: Yeah.
VandyMania: Does that seem like it's coming awfully fast?
Abi: Oh yeah. I don't know why, but it's still kind of wierd for me to be a junior, just to be an upperclassman. I think it's because you've always been used to not having to take the responsibility for being an upperclassmen. You don't have to step out of your comfort zone.
I remember feeling like I'd always be a follower behind Chantelle and Ashley Mac. I always knew what to do when they were around. It was easy to be that follower. God, it's gone by fast, and it's exciting to be a senior, but it's sad. (Sighs.) It's so sad.
Ashley: I agree with Abi. It's gone by so fast. It's been so much fun, and it IS wierd being an upperclassman, being a junior. I remember when we came in, Chantelle and Ashley were juniors, and it seems like we looked up to them. They were the leaders, along with Zuzi and Jillian.
Abi: I think it's easy to come in and have this image of the upperclassmen when you're a freshman and you're young, and you think, "Oh they're so experienced and knowledgeable" and when you're actually in that position, it's happened so fast that you don't realize that's what you've become.
VandyMania: It's a little unique for you two, since you've known since the spring that with Chantelle and Ashley Mac graduating and so many freshmen coming in, you were going to have to take on leadership responsibilities, too.
Abi: Yeah, it was an adjustment, because last year we only had the two freshmen, and this year we knew that we not only were going to have to assume more responsibilities, but also that we were going to be a part of a new team, like it was going to change everything, because the majority was freshmen.
So even though coming in this year we knew we had a lot more responsibilities, it's been a lot more fun than I would have thought going into it. (Ashley and Abi begin to talk excitedly at the same time.) It has, it's been so much more fun -- because of all the youth of the freshmen --the energy and the excitement. They're six of them. You feel like you're part of a new team, almost. It's different. It's not what I expected -- It's relaxing, less stressful.
VandyMania: None of you expected it was going to be that way, did you?
Abi: No, I think one of our worries was, we have this #1 recruiting class, are we going to be able to let them know -- I don't want to say "who's the boss", but would we be able to control them and let them know that this is a program, and they're going to have to work to prepare them? Are they going to be able to listen? Because they had been hyped so much, and they were all the best players from their team. But it's been the opposite. It's been an easy transition, and the coaches have been great through it all.
VandyMania: As the season's turned out, it seems that you've had some extraordinary opportunities to practice being leaders now, especially on the court now that Jenni's injured.
Ashley: It's what we've been talking about the entire time. It's pretty much the same responsibility that we knew that we were going to have to take on with six freshmen coming in.
Abi: Yeah, even though that responsibility for her and what we expect of her has really been brought to the table lately, but also we know that Ashley's been so consistent. Probably more than anyone on our team. She's going to bring it every game, get her 10 rebounds, get her double double. So even though Jenni's out, Ashley's done good at taking over the inside for us.
Ashley: I don't think it's necessarily just one person's responsibility. I think this year what we bring with so many freshmen that can come in and contribute is everyone's going to step up. I don't think just because I'm a post player that it's been all on me, or that I've been having to step up. I don't think that's the case at all. We're a team, and it's somebody every night. Abi has come in and contributed.
Abi: Everyone on this team has a role, and Ashley setting the tone in the game, the freshmen are able to come in and make an easy transition with Jenni being gone because they're able to see Ashley.
VandyMania: Do you think that the injuries that you've had to deal with have helped to bring the team closer together?
Abi: I think so. We were close in the beginning, so I don't want to say that's one of the reasons we're so close now, but I don't think it can do anything but help. It's brought Cherish and Katie closer because they've had to learn the point position, and they've had to communicate with Dee and Erica.
Ashley: I think any time you have adversity it's going to bring a group together, and I think that's what it's done for us. We lose Jenni, we lose our number one scorer and top rebounder. People have to come out of their comfort zone and do things they don't typically do, and I think that's what we're learning to do and having to do. So when she comes back and can play the whole the game, other people will be doing what they've had to change and do.
Abi: And then it'll just make everybody better.
Ashley: Yes, it will make everybody better.
VandyMania: One thing I've always wondered about is the time after practice when you always sit in a circle and stretch and talk or whatever. Is that kind of like a team meeting?
Abi: Yeah, it's a time to stretch and reflect on practice and talk about the positive and negative things that we need to work on. Just then we had a meeting about what we could individually to change what's been happening lately, to take personal accountability is pretty much what it came down to.
I think that's one of the best times because you're sweaty. It's a time for you to NOT take things off the court that have just happened in practice, but to be able to discuss them then.
VandyMania: Watching from a distance, it looks like you talk about some things that are serious, some things that are fun. It just seems like good quality time with your teammates when you're all together.
Abi: I have to say that this one of the best teams, the closest teams, I've ever been on. It's just fun to hang out. You almost want to hang out after we leave the gym.
Ashley: We do, actually.
Abi: Oh yeah, we do. Sometimes in past teams, it was kind of like once you get out, you're just ready to get out, get away, and act like you have another life. But this has been a good year.
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Photos by Whitney D for VandyMania.com