For the past few years, the Lady Movin’ Mavs have played with a bull’s-eye on their backs.
Being in contention for a national championship trophy every year has caused their opposition to bring its A-game to each matchup.
But now it’s a new season. They still have that bull’s-eye on their backs, but with the loss of a few national team-caliber players and more to graduation, many are underestimating the potential of this year’s team, graduate student Darlene Hunter said.
Since its upbringing, the program has leaned on players like alumnae Rose Hollermann, Abby Dunkin and Morgan Wood — all of whom have competed with Team USA — to get the job done on the court.
With the trio out of the picture, the 2019-20 season begs one question: Why should the Lady Movin’ Mavs be seen as a threat in collegiate wheelchair basketball?
All eyes are on sophomore Annabelle Lindsay. The towering high-pointer has quickly become a key component on the court since her debut in the spring of 2018.
Everyone knows who she is and what she’s capable of, junior Angelina Welfle said. The whole world does.
With Lindsay in the spotlight, it will be the low-pointers that come around to shine with their sneaky tactics.
Sophomores Lizzy Becker and Emily Clarke are just a couple of names that come to mind, Hunter said.
“We have a lot of quiet assassins,” Hunter said. “They’re all really quiet girls, like they’re not going to be loud or in your face.”
What makes this year’s team different is that it’s still trying to find its identity, head coach Jason Nelms said. Like Hunter pointed out, there’s no one to lean on anymore.
“Every single person is going to have to do their part to win,” Hunter said.
Many sat in the shadows of the program’s previous stars, but that wasn’t a bad thing, Welfle said. The team had athletes that could execute everything perfectly, so it utilized them frequently.
Now it’s time for those who acted in the shadows to take on a different role, with Welfle expected to be one of the breakout stars this season.
“Our names aren’t really out there, but I’m pretty sure this year they’re going to know our names,” Welfle said of the up-and-coming Lady Movin’ Mavs.
UTA’s roster is loaded with national team athletes from three different countries.
Hunter represents Team USA, Lindsay represents Australia and freshman Elodie Tessier represents Canada. The three missed out on the first two weeks of school to fulfill national team duties.
During that time, Hunter and Tessier qualified for the 2020 Paralympics. Lindsay will get her chance to qualify in late November.
In order to do that, she’ll have to miss a few more weeks of school.
Having such high-profile athletes like the three is a blessing, Nelms said, but it hurts when trying to build chemistry. Each of them will have to depart at some point during the season to train with their national teams.
The Lady Movin’ Mavs will tip off their 2019-20 campaign on Nov. 7 with the Jim Hayes Invitational Homecoming Tournament.
One of their most highly-anticipated matchups of the season will come during homecoming weekend, Nelms said.
UTA will host the Great Britain national team for the second time in three years.
Later on, UTA will also compete against the University of Arizona, a team which, in a sense, is new to the collegiate realm of wheelchair basketball.
The Lady Movin’ Mavs will face one of their own former players, alumna Josie Aslakson, in the matchup against the Wildcats.
As usual, the team is scheduled to face both the University of Illinois and the University of Alabama.
The Crimson Tide defeated the Lady Movin’ Mavs in overtime during the national championship game last season.
“It’s going to be a good fight with Illinois, and it’s going to be a hell of a fight with Alabama,” Welfle said.
It’s a new team and a new season. The Lady Movin’ Mavs may have taken a hit on their roster, but they still have their sights set on a third national title.
“Everyone’s underestimating us,” Welfle said. “And I think we’re ready to shock them.”