Fearless Freshmen Making Their Mark

When it comes to making an impact, the freshmen on the Vanderbilt men's basketball team aren't alone. A trio of freshmen for the women's team are also making their presence known as the non-conference schedule winds down.

"Fearless." That's the word describing a trio of Vanderbilt freshmen making their mark with a basketball program reinventing itself after the loss of three stellar seniors.

Coach Melanie Balcomb also added "confident" to that description after the Dores' drubbing of a sizzling South Florida squad that had won nine straight before their 75-48 loss Wednesday night. The 10-4 Commodores will end non-conference play on Saturday with Princeton (1 p.m. CST).

Newcomers to the team may not know how to pronounce the trio's names yet, but now is the time to learn.

The first collegiate start for frosh guard Hannah Tuomi (pronounced "Twa mee") turned into a memorable debut as the lanky redhead barely missed a double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds during a 19-minute tour de force. Joining Hannah at center circle was point guard Jence (pronounced "Jen see") Rhoads, making her 7th start. Not since last season's departed seniors Dee Davis and Carla Thomas were freshman starters in the 2003-04 season has a pairing of freshman appeared at tip-off. Guard Chanel (pronounced "Sha nell") Chisholm was the first off the bench less than four minutes later to ramp up the intensity by grabbing a defensive rebound 9 seconds later. The Commodore's scorching first half defense held USF to just 6 of 27 buckets for 22.2% shooting, a record low for the visitors.

The tenacious freshmen are fine-tuning the team's performance, as numerous lineup shuffles have transpired in the season's non-conference slate. Balcomb, a veteran with a 132-47 record in 5 years at Vanderbilt, knows drive when she sees it.

"Those three have been working very, very hard, especially in practice. We wanted to give them a shot. They earned that opportunity. The effort's there and the effort is inspiring. They're fearless as well as being confident."

Jence has played every game, averaging 19.9 minutes, Hannah 12 games with 7.8 minutes, and Chanel 9 games with a 7-minute average. Freshman Rebecca Silinski has also participated in 9 games, averaging 5.6 minutes of play.

Family and friends of Chanel, from Long Island, N.Y., and Jence from nearby Slippery Rock, Pa., are expected to make the trek to New Jersey on Saturday. More inspirational play will mean more minutes - and more fans - as the first-year players develop and deliver.

Chanel Chisholm

Hannah Tuomi

Jence Rhoads

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Photos copyright 2008 by Sharon Harper for VandyMania.com

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