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Virginia Tech Confident They Can Collectively Step Up Without Liz Kitley

Georgia Amoore 1 NCAA Presser 2024 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks announced Thursday that three-time ACC Player of the Year, Elizabeth Kitley, is out for the NCAA Tournament with a torn ACL, so the Hokies will have to rely on other players to fill the gap if they want to reach their second-straight Final Four. Brooks knows that his team will have to reinvent themselves to find their best version without Kitley available.

“We’ve had to just kind of reinvent ourselves twice during this period, to try to get ready for the matchup tomorrow”, said Brooks.

Obviously, it is difficult playing without any player in the NCAA Tournament, but the challenge is even greater when a player of Elizabeth Kitley’s status goes down. This was evident in the ACC Tournament as Georgia Amoore scored nearly half of the Hokies points in two games, with Virginia Tech narrowly defeating the Miami Hurricanes before losing to Notre Dame by almost 30 points a day later.

However, Brooks is optimistic that the NCAA Tournament could be different, citing a lack of time to prepare to explain the lackluster performance over the last few games.

“We had to try to revamp it, and reinvent ourselves heading into the ACC Tournament. You know, it seemed like we had a week to prepare, but we really only had one day," Brooks said.

While it’s still far from ideal to play without Kitley in March, this time around the Hokies feel more prepared, but they’re going to have to rely on their freshman to make another run in March.

Despite their youth, the veterans have utmost confidence in the Hokies Freshman stars due to the experience they already have.

“Now it is nice, like you said, they have the Charlotte game under their belt”, said Cayla King. “We went to LSU, we just played in the ACC Tournament, so they have now a couple games under their belt, so we (the Seniors) just try to keep them in check that when you're in the game, really everything is tuned out.”

Virginia Tech is going to rely on multiple freshman including backup guard Carleigh Wenzel, sharpshooting wing Carys Baker, and 6'5'' center Clara Strack, to help replace the production of Elizabeth Kitley.

All three were thrust into very important roles at the end of the season, but they have already displayed flashes of greatness for the Hokies. Wenzel shined in a big game at Louisville, dropping eight points, including some tough finishes around the rim, while she also had some impressive buckets in Tech's early season showdown with Iowa. Meanwhile, Baker has hit a three in six of the last seven games, while Clara Strack stepped in for Elizabeth Kitley in the ACC Tournament against Miami, and finished with ten points, five rebounds, and two blocks.

Clara Strack, specifically, is going to have to step up in a big way for Virginia Tech to make another run. Many Hokie fans have already crowned her the next big star in Blacksburg, but they likely didn’t expect her to be needed this soon. Averaging about four points and four rebounds per game on the season, Strack has shown flashes of a beautiful mid-range game, foot work in the post, and of course elite rebounding and rim protection.

Now, she will likely feel even more comfortable and Hokie fans will be able to see exactly what she is capable of after taking a week of reps as the primary center. Whether Strack or Rose Micheaux gets the start, Kenny Brooks is going to rely on Strack to lead Tech's efforts around the rim on. Oth ends of the floor.

As much confidence as the veterans have in the freshman, the Hokies are going to have to rely on All-American guard Georgia Amoore to take them to the promised land. No lights are too bright for Amoore, who was the 2023 ACC Tournament MVP, and has averaged 30 points per game since Kitley went down with a torn ACL.

When the team leader displays positive energy, that energy expands to the rest of the team, and that is exactly what Amoore has displayed through the hardship, leading up to the NCAA Tournament.

“Our mindset has stayed the same all year, regardless of who we’re playing, where we’re playing at, what kind of stakes…our mindset has been pretty solid, pretty consistent all year," Amoore said.

The journey’s not going to be easy, but when a team is as well-coached as Virginia Tech, has a fearless All-American like Georgia Amoore, and freshman eager to step up given the opportunity, no one should rule out the Hokies to go further than most people are now expecting them to without Liz Kitley in this year's NCAA Tournament.

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