2021-22 CVCC Women's Basketball Team
HICKORY, N.C. — After an abbreviated season this past spring, the Catawba Valley Community College women’s basketball team is getting ‘back to the basics’ heading into the 2021-22 season.
 
The Red Hawks finished their pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season with just 18 games played, recording a 13-5 overall record, including 8-4 mark in Region 10 play.
 
Catawba Valley head women’s basketball coach Tisha England, who is entering her ninth season of leading the program, says that last season, which started in January instead of traditional November, was a challenge.
 
“We never got to the basics of what our program is all about,” England said. “We didn’t get to preseason. We didn’t get to those 5 a.m. practices and 7 a.m. study halls. They didn’t have a true routine of what we normally do here at CVCC. We’re going back to the basics because due to COVID last year we kind of got off track, but that’s okay. We’re back on track.”
 
Eight women’s basketball players return to the court for the Red Hawks this winter, including Kelis Carmon — a second-team All-Region selection in 2020-21.
 
Also back for Catawba Valley are guards Tre’zha Muhammad, Makayla Weaver, Astou Seck, Kenzley Dunlap, Essence Sumner and forwards Azuria Barrino and Alexandria Barrino.
 
Despite being sophomores, England feels that many of her returnees have qualities of first-year players.
 
“My returners are truly freshmen,” England said. “They are learning just like our freshmen are learning about what we do here at CVCC. It’s been a ride. Everybody is learning. I’m still excited because they are taking the challenge, meeting it right where it’s at and moving forward.”
 
Perhaps the biggest motivating factor for England and her players came after Catawba Valley Community College hosted the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II Women’s Basketball Championship — an event moved to Hickory due to COVID issues in Michigan.
 
It was difficult not being able to play in the tournament on its host court for England and her Red Hawks.
 
“I hope it was a teaching moment for them, and it was a teaching moment for myself,” England said. “It was a blessing to be able to host the national tournament, but also a hard pill to swallow that it was right here. We could see it, but couldn’t be involved with the games. That’s motivating myself and our returners coming back. We’re just trying to make this season successful.”
 
Into the fold this season for Red Hawks women’s basketball team are five new freshmen, including Jordan Joyner, Beyonce Jones, Dreamah Mason, Keziah Soogrim and Javelin Lewis — all of whom England expects to contribute to her program quickly.
 
“They’re hungry,” England said of her freshmen. “This group is very special. I like this group. I think they are going to contribute to our program very well in every aspect — academically and athletically. I’m looking forward to what they are going to bring to the table.”
 
England got her first look at what her complete team could do in early October when it traveled to Illinois to play in the Chicago Women JUCO Jamboree. 
 
The Red Hawks went 3-1 at the event, playing against teams from three states, and England learned a lot about her group at the event.
 
“I think both groups — returners and freshmen — were excited to go out of the state of North Carolina and see different talent,” England said. “It was so fresh and new for them to see people from around the world coming to compete. I saw a lot of great things, especially their heart. They played with heart. When they game was on the line they gave me everything they had and came out victorious.”
 
Through its work in the preseason leading to Wednesday’s season opener, England has emphasized one aspect of the game with her team.
 
“We always work on our defense. It’s the core of everything,” she said. “We’re working on learning the rotation of defense and basic fundamentals. We’re working on defense and definitely our free throws. Those can make us or break us. Offense comes and goes, but the one thing that’s going to stand is defense.”
 
Catawba Valley opens its women’s basketball season on Wednesday against the Belmont Abbey JV team before having two weeks off in preparation for a season opener against USC Salkehatchie — a team it battled for the conference championship this past spring.
 
“We’re excited,” England said of her team’s season opener. “We just want to play this game that we love. Every day in practice we’re working hard to get better. We practice hard to make sure our games are easier. The girls understand that. They are excited about this first official game.”

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