#STINGDAILY: Welcome To The Big Stage
Georgia Tech opens its season against Tennessee in a big-time matchup Sunday.
Nov. 11, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
Whether you had a chance to experience McCamish Pavilion when it opened Friday or not, you ought to go to today's women's opener (2 p.m.). Beyond the beauty of new digs, there will be two big-time programs in the building, two teams that matter nationally.
And one of them will be Tech.
The Yellow Jackets (20/22) may not yet have the gravitas of Tennessee (20/16), but Tech clearly is ascendant to the point where when head coach MaChelle Joseph says, "We've established ourselves nationally," she's not making it up.
Tech is coming off its first Sweet 16 appearance, has won 20 or more games and made the NCAA tournament six seasons in a row, and has improved its win total in every one of those seasons. That's stout.
With eight returning lettermen and three starters back from a squad that won a school-record 26 games and one of the nation's top 10 recruiting classes in the mix, the Jackets are stout for real.
No wonder Joseph has hoped aloud that Tech can, for the first time, sell out a women's basketball game. The men did that Friday when they trounced Tulane, and Coach Jo's pedigree has grown to where the idea of having more fans than McCamish can fit is real.
"We're very excited to be back home in McCamish Pavilion and opening up against one of the top teams in the country," Joseph said. "I'm excited to see what the City of Atlanta and the local media will do with this opportunity, with Tennessee coming in and possibly making history with the first ever sellout in women's basketball at Georgia Tech."
Junior Tyaunna Marshall, who was added this week to the Wooden watch list, led the Jackets in scoring in her first and second seasons. Point guard Metra Walthour and center Sasha Goodlet graduated, but the Jackets have serious replacements.
"I think Dawnn Maye is our most improved player," Joseph said. "We're just so much quicker with the ball in her hands. With the speed and quickness we have on the perimeter, it'll be interesting to see how we're able to bring our post players along."
Tech is not going to change what it does defensively. The Jackets are going to get after their opponents from start to finish, from end to end. Joseph, though, said she does not anticipate having to call as many offfensive plays as she's accustomed to because there is more talent on this team than she's ever had.
"I think this team is probably one of my most exciting teams to watch," Joseph said. "They can do so many things athletically; even I'm surprised by what they do sometimes . . . ow we have players that can go get shots for themselves. I think that's one of the biggest differences with this team and teams we've had in the past.
"Our freshmen are so long and athletic that a lot of the mistakes they make on the defensive end they're able to make up for with their athleticism. We averaged 20 steals in the two preseason games."
The Jackets are ready for this moment. Even with half a dozen players new to the program, they're not going in with the idea of merely compete. Tech is aiming to win.
"Six years ago I probably would have said you're right, but after playing in the Sweet 16 and being exposed to Baylor, the eventual national champion . . . we've been there and done that. This is not a program that is at the beginning of the building process.
"We can't use those things as excuses. We're no longer at the bottom of the ACC. We're challenging for a championship year in and year out."
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