Syracuse women's basketball begins 2016-17 with championship aspirations

After advancing to the 2016 NCAA title game, SU holds first practice of season on Sunday.

The Syracuse women’s basketball team finished 2015-16 with a 23-6 record and, against many expectations, advanced to the program’s first national championship game.

Although they ultimately fell to the dominant University of Connecticut, Syracuse gained the attention of the NCAA and fans as a force to be reckoned with for this upcoming season.

The Orange held its first practice yesterday afternoon, and with the added pressure to make another run for a championship, head coach Quentin Hillsman ensured that the team will be prepared to compete at the highest level once again.

“I think when you make a national championship game, everything changes,” Hillsman said. “We are now a team that is an elite program in the country and everybody is going to come at us hard and we're excited about the challenge.”

Hillsman, along with senior guards Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes, all put an emphasis on the team’s expectations for this year remaining the same as the one before. They felt last year they were a championship team and this year nothing has changed, except the roster. 

With eight underclassmen on the team, many feel having less veteran players on the roster would be cause for concern when expecting to make another run at the championship. However, with the team’s fast-paced and aggressive style, Peterson feels this could play to the Orange’s advantage.

“We have a lot of new players that are eager to get out here, get into their roles, and they’re excited they're learning the system,” Peterson said. “I think the fact that they’re so young and athletic means they’re ready to step up.”

Both Peterson and Sykes are expected to have a large impact for Syracuse. Peterson averaged 16 points per game last season and received All-ACC first team honors, while Sykes averaged 10 points and was the only Syracuse player to be a member of the 2016 All-Final Four team.

Both understand the expectations to be leaders and role models as seniors, and the dynamic duo both agreed when asked if SU’s backcourt is the best in the country.

“Yeah, I’m going to say someone else?” Sykes said grinning.

Despite the confidence, they have developed as a team this past year. Sykes explained the importance of the squad continuing to build together and taking on every opponent as if they are competing for the championship.

“Our expectations are all things that we can control. Our energy, our attitude and our effort,” Sykes said. “Of course we want to go to the national championship again, but we have to play those games leading up to the national championship.”

The Orange open the season Nov. 11 against Rhode Island at the Carrier Dome.


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