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Miami looks to build on recent success with new head coach

<p>Redshirt senior forward Abbey Hoff has scored 11 points in each of her last two games.</p>

Redshirt senior forward Abbey Hoff has scored 11 points in each of her last two games.

The Miami women’s basketball team will start the season with a lot of new faces this week. 

New players include freshmen Taylor Boruff, Amani Freeman and Peyton Scott. The RedHawks also added transfers, junior Monique Esbrand and redshirt senior Bree Paulson.

But no new face is more important than first-year head coach DeUnna Hendrix, who will look to lead the RedHawks to their third 20-win season in a row. Hendrix became Miami’s ninth head coach in program history after seven seasons at High Point University, where she amassed 125 wins and two postseason appearances.

“This is a team that has seen success, you know, in the past couple years,” Hendrix said, “So, they know how to win. I guess when we came in as a staff, our biggest message was, ‘Let’s have fun doing it.’”

Even with a new head coach, Miami will look to continue last year’s success, when it had a 23-9 record and appeared in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament under Megan Duffy. Duffy left to accept the head job at Marquette, while former starters Kendall McCoy, Leah Purvis and Baleigh Reid all graduated. Still, the RedHawks return seniors Lauren Dickerson and Savannah Kluesner, who were the team’s leading scorers last year. 

Dickerson, a two-time All-MAC first team selection, was named to the Preseason All-MAC East Division Team last Wednesday. She was also selected to be on the Nancy Lieberman Award Preseason Watch List, which recognizes the best point guard in women’s Division I basketball. 

Dickerson, who has scored 1,670 points in her career, is just 497 away from becoming the leading scorer in Miami women’s basketball history. 

Hendrix has experience coaching against Dickerson, who dropped 16 points in last year’s game against High Point. However, she’s still been impressed with what she’s seen from the senior point guard so far.

“I knew she was good,” Hendrix said at last week’s season-opening press conference, “but to see what she can do on a daily basis is pretty amazing.” 

Hendrix has liked what she’s seen from the rest of the RedHawks, calling her new squad “the toughest team” she’s ever coached.

“It’s a mentality for them,” Hendrix said after practice on Friday. “So, literally, whatever you tell them to do, they’re going to do it, and they’re gonna do it with max effort.”

The RedHawks will be busy during their non-conference slate, as they’ll be playing in two early-season tournaments this month. Their first home game is Nov. 22, when they take on the University of Illinois at Chicago. Miami’s first MAC game will be Jan. 4 against Buffalo at Millett Hall.

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Miami currently has two ranked opponents on their schedule: Miami (FL), who the RedHawks will be playing on Nov. 30 as part of a Thanksgiving tournament, and DePaul, who the RedHawks play Friday in the first round of the Preseason WNIT. 

Led by Dickerson’s fellow Lieberman Watch List point guard, Kelly Campbell, the Blue Demons come in boasting a No. 18 ranking. However, the RedHawks are ready for the challenge. 

“It’s just a challenge,” Kluesner said. “I mean, we haven’t really faced the top of the top in awhile, and especially with the whole new group, so I’m excited to see what we can do against them.”

Friday’s season opener against DePaul is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. If the RedHawks win, they’ll play the winner of Saturday’s Drexel-Davidson matchup.

“We’re Miami,” Dickerson said, “so we gotta do what we gotta do.”