Florida Atlantic at Georgia Southern
8:30 p.m., Friday
Chris Vozab has plenty of coaching experience.
After graduation from Providence, she was a two-year graduate assistant at New Hampshire, worked as an assistant coach at Canisius and Winthrop, and coached in the NCAA tournament with Dayton in March, 2012.
Friday, Vozab will take to the court for the first time as a head coach, when her Georgia Southern Eagles open the season at Hanner Fieldhouse against Florida Atlantic at 8:30 p.m.
In her head coaching debut, Vozab intends to practice what she preaches.
“We tell our kids, ‘Compete on every possession and believe in our preparation.’ The same things we tell our players are true for us as coaches —believe in what got us here, believe in our players,” Vozab said. “I couldn’t be more fortunate to be working with a great group of kids that wants to learn. They’re buying in and it’s a really exciting time.”
For the last two years, two Eagles’ leaders have also fought through injuries, but Meredyth Frye, who has played every position from point guard to forward, and MiMi Dubose, a shooting guard, are ready to go in the 2012-13 campaign.
“They’re doing well, really well,” Vozab said. “Their versatility, skill sets and intelligence out there are going to be big assets for us.”
Vozab also hopes to get 6-foot-3 Danielle Spencer and 6-foot Aishya Wofford more involved in the post game.
“They’ve really been sponges for what we’re trying to do. We want to be able to score inside out, and we’ve tried to emphasize that as a staff. I think they see that,” Vozab said. “I thought we have some untapped talent in the post, from what we watched on the tape from last year.”
Last year was a long one for the Eagles, who finished 8-22, 4-16 Southern Conference, and lost in overtime to Western Carolina in the first round of the SoCon tournament under then head coach Rusty Cram.
Vozab is no stranger to the Southern Conference, a league she came across often at Winthrop.
“Even if I wasn’t playing a SoCon team,” Vozab said, “you’re constantly seeing film when you’re getting ready for other mid-majors in the area. I definitely feel pretty familiar with the style of play and the kids I remember from recruiting.”
Fans will see a familiar face in Hanner this season in forward Sierra Kirkland, who averaged nearly a double-double as a senior at Statesboro High, and helped the Blue Devils to four dominant years under coach Jeff Seier.
“We’re fortunate that she’s here, for sure,” Vozab said. “She’s another kid who is just absorbing everything she’s being thought. She possesses a competitive fire and a mental toughness that’s beyond her years.”
Vozab hopes to bring a high-energy identity to Georgia Southern in a SoCon with a variety of different programs.
“We know if you’re going to play Samford, you’re guarding the Princeton offense. Davidson runs the triangle offense,” Vozab said. “We’re trying to build an identity for Georgia Southern basketball, so people know how hard we’re going to compete for every possession.”
Friday’s opener against Florida Atlantic will be a learning experience for both staffs, as FAU is entering its first season under head coach Kellie Lewis-Jay.
“For both of us, trying to find film is interesting,” Vozab said. “Personnel-wise, they went to the NIT, and their more athletic players are returning. They play a fast-paced style, but because there’s a lack of film at this point of the year, we’ve been focusing on us, and what we do.”
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.