Montreat College women's team small in numbers, big on talent

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

The Montreat College women's basketball team will dress only nine players heading into this season, but what the roster lacks in size it makes up for in talent. 

Meghan Austin, who is heading into her fourth season as the coach of the Cavaliers, still has big expectations for her players. 

Junior Arianna Williams brings the ball up the court for the Cavaliers on Oct. 27 in an exhibition game against Bob Jones University.

"We preach it every day in practice," she said. "The strength of a team is the team itself."

This year's team is a versatile group of players who can all contribute, Austin said. 

"All of our players can contribute equally," she said. "I have nine that I can play on any day, which gives me a lot of confidence going into the season."

Seven of the players on the roster are returning from last year, including juniors Arianna Williams and Darah DeWalt, who had big seasons for the Cavaliers a season ago. 

"Darah averaged 15 points and around 7 or 8 rebounds (per game) last year and she was double-teamed pretty much every game," Austin said. "She's pretty special."

DeWalt is a multi-dimensional threat for the Cavaliers, Austin said. 

"She can handle the ball and she can shoot the three," she said. "She shot about 38 percent from three last year. So for a 6-foot post player she really stretches the defense. She can be a bit of a mismatch."

Making DeWalt's sophomore season even more impressive was the fact that she led the team in scoring in spite of a knee injury. 

"I wasn't really able to run as hard as I would've liked to or stay in games as long as I wanted to last year," DeWalt said. "This, being healthy going into the season, I think I can help the team more."

Montreat College senior and Swannanoa Valley native Hannah Calloway handles the ball in an Oct. 28 scrimmage against Bob Jones University.

Williams, who is one of the team's captains going into the season, will look to put her teammates in positions to be successful.

"Since my freshman year I've worked hard to figure out the other players and how they play," she said. "I've gotten better at understanding how each one of them plays."

Chemistry on the court is one of the keys to success for the Cavaliers this season, according to the coach.

"We have to come together and find that chemistry," Austin said. "We have that core of seven players who are coming back, but they didn't always play together last year and we had some injuries too."

New players, junior Jala Daniels and freshman Lani Page, will also have to work their way into the system as well. 

Swannanoa Valley native and Carolina Day School graduate Hannah Calloway will be returning to action for the Cavaliers, after missing last season with a hip injury. 

"She's been with me since I've been here and she's helped build the culture," she said. "She can shoot the lights out and she'll contribute for sure. She helps change the dynamic of our team."

Austin's team will also need to have the heart and desire to get things done on the court, she said. 

"Most of the time in our conference whoever wants it the most that day is going to win the game," she said. "We have to make sure, every game, that's us."