If you had to describe the 2022 Virginia Tech women’s basketball team in a word, it would be a buzzsaw. At 10-0 for the first time in four seasons, the queens of Cassell Coliseum are laying waste to opponents left and right.
“Sometimes you’re 10-0 and you have a lot of questions. We’re 10-0 and I think we have a lot of possibilities.” Tech coach Kenny Brooks said after their 86-48 win over UNC Asheville.
Tech is top five in scoring offense in the ACC on the young season, coming in at 79.4 points per game. The engine of the high powered offense stems from the Hokies hot three-point shooting. Per usual, Tech checks in as a top flight bunch from downtown, shooting the rock at a 35.7% clip which ranks third in the ACC. Even with a high flying offense to lean on, it’s been the Hokies' elite defense that makes them lethal on both ends.
“These kids are a year older and now we’re even better defensively,” Brooks said. “Couple that with the fact we have explosive scorers and a lot of scores and I think we’ll be in a lot of basketball games.”
The Hokies are surprisingly the ACC’s top ranked defense this season, giving up only 48.5 points a night to opponents. Additionally, Tech also stifles opposing teams shooting as they stand in the top three of opposing FG% and 3P% in the conference. This two-way dominance has been led by ultra impressive individual performances from many different types of stars.
“All of them are capable of being a star on the team,” Brooks said. “Taylor Soule was a star at Boston College, Kayana Traylor was a star for Purdue, Georgia (Amoore) has the only triple double in program history, Liz Kitley is the reigning ACC Player of the Year, Cayla King has the most threes in a home game. They’re all special in their own way.”
Indeed, the number of multi-faceted threats on this Tech team is truly a scary thought for opponents. First you have to deal with one of the best players in the sport in Elizabeth Kitley.
A walking points and rebounds machine, Kitley has eight double-doubles in 10 games. Even in rare games she struggles in like Tennessee, Kitley is still a leader for the Hokies.
“We’d love for Liz (Kitley) to get 20-25 every night but she doesn’t have to,” Brooks said. “Case in point, she scores six against Tennessee, we still win and she’s one of the happiest people on the bus.”
What makes this version of VT women’s basketball special is the number of go-to options they have at their disposal. If Kitley is off her game, then Tech’s PG from down under can step up and even make history. Georgia Amoore hasn’t shot it as well as she’d hoped to but is peaking as a playmaker, posting back-to-back home games of double digit assists.
Well what if Kitley and Amoore are overloaded by opposing defenses. Well teams would still be foolish to help off Cayla King who drilled nine triples in Tech’s opening win over Mount St. Mary’s. King is a knockdown shooter which spreads the floor out for everyone else to do their work in the mid-range and inside the paint.
One player that thrives off the fantastic spacing is Kayana Taylor. Second on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game, Traylor is a fantastic slasher that can wear many hats on the floor.
“She’s (Traylor) our best downhill driver and can get to the hole in a variety of ways,” Brooks said. “She’s always been a starter to us because she plays starter minutes.”
Additionally, Taylor Soule has slotted perfectly into the Hokies starting five as a jack of all trades player. One night she can be the rough and tough defender who ignites fast breaks with slippery steals. Another game she can be a lead scorer, as she was against UNC Asheville where she poured in 21 points off 7-10 shooting from the floor.
“She’s (Soule) got a dual role, be a great player and be the hype person…you can feel the electricity in the arena when she gets a steal,” Brooks explained. “Her plays are energetic and they get the crowd going.”
The final piece to the puzzle is Ashley Owusu. A former All-American, Owusu’s been injured and out of the Hokies' lineup the last three games. Her best performance of the season came against Longwood, where Owusu scored 21 points off a clean 7-8 shooting night.
“We were just getting comfortable with Ashley and where to put her and how to use her,” Brooks stated. “Hopefully she’ll be able to get back in sooner and transition seamlessly as well.”
Owusu was slated as the Hokies starting two-guard, a role with big shoes to fill in leu of Aisha Sheppard’s departure to the pros. In the time she’s been out, Tech’s offense hasn’t skipped a beat and they’ve exercised that flexibility with their different stars playing in unique roles.
“As a coach, you have to learn to evolve. You have your system and philosophies and what you really want to do but sometimes you get special players who can play outside of your system,” Brooks said.
Virginia Tech will need the A-game of all of these dynamic threats to take down a fearsome opponent in #5 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are ranked a lone spot above the Hokies despite having one loss on the resume. That loss was to Maryland which was soon avenged with a victory over a top 10 ranked UConn team.
The Irish are an offensive juggernaut and will very much test this new found defensive strengths of Tech. The #6 Hokies and #5 Irish will battle at Cassell Coliseum Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. in what will be one of the premier women’s college hoops matchups of the entire season and the first ever top 10 women's basketball matchup in Cassell Coliseum history.