Virginia Tech Women’s Basketball returns to the hardwood of Cassell Coliseum in just a few days. Monday, November 6th will mark a special double header for both the men's and women's teams in Blacksburg, the first being a tune up with High Point for Kenny Brooks’ squad. This night will also be a special celebration of their historic 2022-23 season as the program raises their 2023 Final Four banner pregame before they take on High Point.
Even with the big name players back in the fold, this year's team will look and feel a good bit different than last year's Final Four team. Follow along as we preview the roster with predictions for the starting five and lineup projections, key stretches of the season, and evaluate Virginia Tech WBB’s floor and ceiling for the 2023-2024 season.
Who Left, Who’s Back, Who’s New
Last year, Virginia Tech rode a six-woman rotation to an ACC title and more. Three of those six pieces won’t return for this season. Taylor Soule and Kayana Traylor were drafted to the WNBA before being cut at various points of the season. Soule has been picked up by the Chicago Sky while Traylor is preparing for overseas hoops.
D’Asia Gregg will also not return as last season was her final year of eligibility as it was for Soule and Traylor. With those three key rotation pieces gone, Tech loses a good deal of defense and shot creation that the new pieces will have to pick up this winter. Additionally, five other Hokies from last year won’t be back due to either graduating or transferring.
F Taylor Geiman (graduated)
C Clara Ford (graduated)
G Ashley Owusu (transferred to Penn State)
G Charlise Dunn (transferred to Davidson)
G Maddie Vejsicky (transferred to San Diego)
In the returners category, Tech got the big news of Elizabeth Kitley and Cayla King’s return for both of their fifth years of eligibility. Kitley, the two-time ACC Player of the Year, and King, a veteran sharpshooter and multi-year returning starter, combined with senior star point guard Georgia Amoore give the Hokies a strong core to build the other pieces around.
The other returner from last year is Carleigh Wenzel. The San Antonio native redshirted her freshman season last winter and will look to potentially crack into the rotation in her second go around in Blacksburg. There's been plenty of buzz about what she can bring to the Hokies since her arrival in Blacksburg as a top 100 recruit.
While Tech has three big returners in Amoore, Kitley, and King, the bulk of the roster is made up of new transfers and a talented freshman class which included four top 100 recruits.
F Rose Micheaux (Junior, Minnesota transfer)
G/F Matilda Ekh (Junior, Michigan State transfer)
F Olivia Summiel (Graduate, Wake Forest transfer)
G Mackenzie Nelson (FR Greenwich, Conn. native)
C Clara Strack (FR Buffalo, NY native)
G Samyha Suffren (FR Charlotte, NC native)
F Carys Baker (FR, West Hartford, Conn. native)
G Gabby Brooks (FR Harrisonburg, VA native)
Projected Starting Five & Key Reserves
- Point Guard- Georgia Amoore
- Shooting Guard- Cayla King
- Forward- Matilda Ekh
- Forward- Rose Micheaux
- Center- Liz Kitley
Amoore, Kitley and King will all be regulars and locks for starting roles so long as they are healthy. However, there are two other spots in the lineup set for new starters. With no Traylor or Soule, expect two of the three new transfers to come in and acquire starting roles from day one.
I predict Matilda Ekh and Rose Micheaux to be the two replacements in the starting five. Ekh was a full-time starter for two years in East Lansing, starting in 57 of 59 games she played in. Ekh racked up 11.8 points per game as a freshman and sophomore and shot 39% from three in her college career.
Ekh is a perfect fit for Brooks high paced and spaced offense and will make guarding her and fellow sharpshooter Cayla King a nightmare to defend on opposing wings. Likewise, Rose Micheaux stands at 6’2 and will likely be the other starting forward for the Hokies. At Minnesota, Micheaux started all 30 games she played in as a sophomore last season. She averaged 13.8 PPG on 52% shooting from the field and grabbed nearly eight boards a night as well.
It’s no secret that depth was an issue for last year's Final Four team. This season, Tech should play at least seven in the rotation with the potential for up to nine girls to get consistent minutes. Wake Forest transfer Olivia Summiel should see plenty of playing time in a sixth man role. Summiel has a career average of 5 PPG with 104 games of college experience and 60 starts under her belt.
Additionally, expect some of the freshmen to be key bench contributors. Carleigh Wenzel returned for a reason and I expect her to see real playing time with a larger share of opportunities available. Two true freshmen that could see some early playing time are Mackenzie Nelson and Clara Strack, both of whom could remind Hokie fans of the team's star players.
Strack is a 6’5 center with a game reminiscent of Kitley while Nelson is a 5’8 guard with shades of Amoore. I’d bet my bottom dollar that Kenny Brooks is looking to develop them both into big parts of the future of Tech women's basketball, and there’s no better time to start that development process than their lone overlapping year with Kitley and Amoore (who could return for one more season still).
Important Stretches on the Schedule
Two of the more obvious games of importance lie in November, with the Hokies taking on two fellow 2023 Final Four teams in Iowa and LSU. The matchups will not only be great tests for Tech but also will serve as great showing for the sport of women's college basketball.
If the Hokies win one or both, they’ll surely be a top five team nationally for most of the year. Falling to both teams though could knock Virginia Tech down a peg or two on the national scale. However, losing to Iowa and LSU is no reason to spell doom for ACC play.
Continuing on to the ACC slate, Virginia Tech has several key stretches of road games against quality opponents. The first comes in the middle of January, Tech faces road tests against preseason #18 ranked Florida State and nearly ranked Duke. From there, another key stretch will come in early February, as the Hokies have tricky, back-to-back road games against NC State and North Carolina.
All together, Tech went 7-1 against these teams last season and will need to continue that success in 2024. Finally, Tech closes the year off with three-straight ranked opponents and then the Commonwealth Clash. A road game against #17 Louisville, home bout against #16 UNC and final road game against #10 Notre Dame will be quite the challenge for the Hokies as they nearly conclude the regular season.
For a full game by game schedule breakdown and final record prediction, check out my schedule preview here.
Floor & Ceiling Predictions
To close the preview off, let’s evaluate the floor and ceiling for this team. Kitley and Amoore are two of the best players in the country, which gives the Hokies a high floor. Tech’s ceiling will be based on how the stars gel with the new transfers. What kind of team will be fostered from the mixture of familiar and new. Last year, it was a Final Four team, and I believe that could be the case again this year too.
As a floor, I think Tech finishes no lower than fifth in a stacked ACC. In the ACC Tournament, the Hokies would at least get to the semifinal round and at worst, I think Tech would be knocked out early in the NCAA Tournament, not hosting the first two rounds this year.
On the more optimistic side, Tech is the preseason favorites in the ACC and they have a great chance to win the ACC in the regular season, the ACC Tournament, or even both. If they can do that, the Hokies would most definitely run it back as a one seed. I believe the ceiling for Virginia Tech with Kitley and Amoore running the show on the floor is to get back to the Final Four and finish the job with a national title, the first in program history and Virginia Tech sports history as a whole.