Aug. 12, 2002
ATLANTA – The school’s first berth in the Preseason WNIT, along with the first nationally televised game in program history, will be among the highlights of the 2002-03 Georgia Tech women’s basketball schedule, which was announced on Monday.
The Yellow Jackets will kick off the 2003 campaign on Nov. 17, when they host Conference USA foe Charlotte in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT. The winner of that contest will advance to face either Ball State or Kansas State. The Wildcats will likely open the year ranked among the nation’s top teams after advancing to the NCAA “Sweet 16” a year ago. The WNIT field features a strong field, including 12 teams that took part in postseason play a year ago.
“I’m very excited about our schedule for the 2003 season,” said Tech head coach Agnus Berenato. “This year we will reach two great milestones in our program. The first of those is to be invited to play in the Preseason WNIT. The committee could have selected any teams from around the country to play in the event, and to be selected not only to compete but also to host a first-round game is very exciting for our program. The second milestone is to have a game televised nationally on ESPN2. We have a great rivalry with Virginia and it should be a very competitive game. We’ve taken our recruiting to a national level and this is a huge step in the direction that we want our program to be headed in.”
Tech will also have the formidable task of facing off with at least six teams that appeared in last year’s NCAA Tournament, including Georgia State (Dec. 18) in the pre-conference slate, along with Atlantic Coast Conference rivals Duke, Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia. The Blue Devils reached the Final Four a year ago after capturing the ACC title.
The sixth NCAA opponent for the Jackets will be in-state rival Georgia. For the second-straight year, the match-up with the Bulldogs will be part of the ACC/SEC Shootout, sponsored by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Philips Arena on Dec. 27. The event will also include a contest between Clemson and Auburn in the other half of the doubleheader.
Of Tech’s seven scheduled televised games of the year, the home contest with Virginia on Feb. 16 will be a unique one, as it will mark the first time that the Jackets have appeared in a nationally televised contest. The game with the Cavaliers will be shown to the entire country on ESPN2 beginning at 2 p.m.
“I compliment the ACC for putting together such a great television package for women’s basketball in our conference,” said Berenato. “For us to be part of that package for seven games this year is great for us, we’re an up-and-coming team and we have two great feature players in Sonja Mallory and Nina B?rlin, so I think we’ll be exciting to watch this year. Also, it will be a great chance for us to showcase our recruiting class as well.”
The showdown with Georgia will mark the Jackets’ first television appearance of the year, as the game will be shown as part of a doubleheader on Fox Sports Net South. The month of January will begin conference play for Tech and with it will come three televised games. Included in those are contests with Duke (Jan. 13) and Clemson (Jan. 23) at home and a road tilt with Florida State (Jan. 20), all of which will be shown as part of the ACC’s television package on Fox Sports Net South, Comcast Sports Net and the Sunshine Network. The Jackets’ final two appearances on the ACC package will be on Feb. 2 at North Carolina and on March 3 in the regular-season finale against Wake Forest.
Tech will host a pair of regular-season holiday tournaments in 2002, leading off with the Atlanta Marriott Northwest Basketball Classic on Nov. 29-30. The two-day tourney will feature Arkansas State, East Tennessee State and Miami (Ohio). The Jackets will face East Tennessee State in the first round on Nov. 29 at 1 p.m., with Arkansas State and Miami (Ohio) squaring off at 3 p.m. The Jackets’ second home tournament of the year, the Atlanta Marriott Northwest Holiday Invitational, will take place on Dec. 30-31. Tech will face St. John’s in the first round, while Florida Atlantic and East Carolina will wrap up the first-round twin bill.
“I’m also excited to have both of our regular-season tournaments at home this year,” said Berenato. “It’s a great chance for us to showcase our facilities and to play in a tournament setting on our home court. Also, to once again be a part of the ACC/SEC Shootout at Philips Arena is a great opportunity for our team. Having that along with getting to play at the Georgia Dome in our exhibition game, it will be great to play there prior to hosting the Women’s Final Four there in April.”
After advancing to postseason play for the third-straight year, the Yellow Jackets return eight letterwinners and three starters from a year ago and welcome one of the largest and most heralded freshman classes in program history for 2003. Included in the group of returning starters are seniors Sonja Mallory and Nina B?rlin and junior Fallon Stokes. Mallory led the team in both scoring and rebounding in 2002, en route to earning second-team All-ACC honors, while B?rlin led the team in assists despite missing 12 games with a knee injury. Six freshmen will make up the class of 2006, which will be looked to for an immediate impact this season. Heading up the group will be 6-3 forward Kasha Terry, who was named to both the McDonald’s and WBCA All-America teams a year ago. Joining her on the front line will be April Johnson, Jessica Williams and Ashley Guerrant, while Mallorie Winn and Megan Harpring will be newcomers in the backcourt. The team will face its first outside competition with an exhibition game Nov. 7 versus Premier Players in a contest that will take place at the Georgia Dome.