Hannah Tuomi lends a hand to Jence Rhodes.
Official practice for Vandy’s women’s program began today, ramping up the intense training players have undergone since July with multiple weekday pickup games and conditioning sessions to build stamina for SEC play. Leading the charge will be team captains Jence Rhoads, Rebecca Silinski and Hannah Tuomi. VandyMania spoke with the trio about their guidance and expectations for the season.
VM: Coach Balcomb announced that each of you will be captains this year. How will leadership with three work?
Hannah Tuomi: “As far as leadership goes, all of us have a different perspective. We look at the same situation three different ways and it really helps if there’s a problem and we can all put our heads together and come up with a solution."
Rebecca Silinski: “The coaches said that separately, the three of us are good leaders, but together, we make one great leader. This means bringing all of our characteristics, all of our leading abilities together to make one really strong leader.”
VM: What would people say about your individual leadership style? Becca, you’re known to like a mom on the team.
Rebecca: “Yep, I’m definitely the mom on the team, organizing and trying to make sure that that people are where they’re supposed to be for team bonding events and stuff.”
Hannah: “Jence is louder than I am in game situations.”
Jence faces Glory Johnson in the SECT UT game.
Jence Rhoads: “I direct traffic. Hannah is the workhorse. Everyone, do what Hannah does and you’ll be fine.”
VM: Jence, in your mentoring with the guards, you must be teaching Gabby Smith something. She said that you’re the best player she’s ever faced.
Jence: “Gosh, she said that? That’s really sweet of her! Well, hopefully I’m teaching her something because she’s going to be one of the leaders, even this year and next when we’re gone. I guess it would be just working hard and loving the game and doing extra when you can.”
VM: Jence, your commercial for season tickets has aired, and it looks great. Can you talk about that experience? You were definitely being discreet with the wrist you injured earlier this summer.
Jence: “I still had the cast on it and that’s why it was covered up and why I wasn’t on the court so much. It was shot two days after I broke it so I couldn’t move my arm at all. (The wrist is now healed and Jence is shooting normally). It was shot at night, and took about three hours.”
Hannah: “Jence got the main commercial but we all shot something for Jam the Gym.”
VM: How excited are you now that practice is happening?
Jence: “Excited and ready to get started finally. We’ve been building up to it, and anticipating it and we’re ready to get going on games.”
VM: Are there any games you’re looking forward to more than others?
Hannah defends against UT in post-season play.
Hannah: I have a couple. Definitely the DU (Denver University) game and of course the SEC games and …
Jence: Game Day! (ESPN’s January 15 doubleheader with Vanderbilt men and women squaring off against Tennessee).
Hannah: “Yes, I was so excited to hear about it, and I can’t wait for it, but we can’t rush through anything.”
Jence: “No, we don’t want to rush it.”
Hannah: “But at the same time, we can’t wait for it.”
Rebecca: "Jence and I are excited for the Duquesne game. It’s a senior home game for both of us. I’m originally from Pittsburgh and still have extended family there." (Jence’s hometown of Slippery Rock is an hour north.)
VM: There’s so much depth on this team. Talk about how post play will change with the additional height factored in.
Hannah: "As far as height, it will be a lot less work for the person. Last year we were lacking height in the post so we had to take some of our guards in and we had to work extra hard because we were smaller. So it will probably help our other post players and the guards."
Rebecca: “It brings a new dynamic. In practice games against each other with different height levels, it changes the way defense has to play.”
Jence: “There are so many more options.”
Rebecca takes a shot in a tournament warm-up.
VM: Rebecca, you used to be the tallest player at 6-3 after Liz Sherwood graduated. Now there’s a pair of 6-3s and 6-4s. Wouldn’t it be fun to have the four of you out on the floor at the same time?
Everyone laughs …
Jence: We’ve got to get at least one short guard out there.
VM: Yeah, even if it were just a few minutes, it would be pretty fun to watch. What about changes coming up with guards? How are those plays going to work with the new folks coming in?
Jence: “Everyone’s working really hard and everyone should be able to contribute like we are right now and get plenty of minutes. Everyone is going to be really good once they find their roles. Once the guards have those roles down, combined with our great post players, we’ll be good.”
Jence, one of the things noticeably different last year was your shooting. You were generally first or second in scoring throughout the season.
Jence: I’m looking to be an attacking point guard and a scoring point guard so if my team needs me to score, I’m going to score. The coaches have been on me to have that be my first option, not having to score as an aftermath. I’m in the process of making that happen.”
Are there breakout players who are going to be amazing this year? Anyone you can name individually that is going to wow us?
Hannah: “Everybody on this team is capable of having a great night, and on different nights, different people will step up, especially if someone’s having trouble, someone else can help them out. We’re going to have a team where everyone is competing, and everyone is going to step up.”
Jence: “People have been working very hard in the summer. We really have improved from last year. I think that has helped boost confidence so some others will be able to step up when we need them.”
Hannah: “Our sophomore class is going to rise to the occasion.”
One of the teams that gave us trouble last year we will see in the Thanksgiving tourney. Will Quinnipiac be a game where you prove that the near-upset (75-74) was a fluke?
Jence: “There are a few games like that last year that aren’t going to happen like that this year. That would be any game we lost in the pre-conference last year, any game that was closer than it should have been, and any game in the SEC that we didn’t play our best.”
Rebecca: “We have to keep playing at our level, not fluctuate, whether we’re up in a game, or whatever the situation, just constantly focusing on what we’re preparing for, which is the NCAA tournament and ultimately the national championship.”
Rebecca, you had a good conference season last year, starting with Tennessee and continuing through the SEC Tournament.
Rebecca: “Things just clicked. I just had so much fun out there and realized what I was capable of doing. I didn’t want to hold myself back or question what I could do anymore. I just want to build off of that and bring that momentum into the season.”
Okay, final question. I’m going to ask this but I don’t think I’ll get an answer. Who are the starting five?
All three are laughing and talking at once.
Hannah: “We can’t answer that. Even if we knew now, it could shift later as we practice and try different things.”
Jence: Too many things change. We won’t know until game day.”