The Virginia State women’s basketball team will start the season in unfamiliar territory.

The Trojans were predicted to finish ninth in the CIAA preseason poll and last in the Northern Division.

“That’s something we’re not used to being since I’ve been here in the program, since I’ve been the head coach here,” said coach James Hill, who is entering his 13th season with the program. “It just gives us another challenge.”

Through the day-to-day progress of getting his team to where it used to be, Hill is spending most of practice with his team in the weight room. He added that he wants his team to be in “tip, top shape” for the type of defense they like to play.

“Most of our thing is conditioning,” Hill said. “We’ve been more into the weights this year than we were last year, so we feel like that’s going to be big for us.”

The Trojans lost several players to transfers and graduation, but Hill is expecting the newcomers to come into the program and become impact players.

Many of the new players are transfers, including Jordan Miller, who played at West Virginia State last year and is from Chesterfield.

Senior guard Yazmen Hannah is VSU’s leading returning scorer (10.8). Richmonder Shayln Washington, a senior forward, and Autumn Hopson, a junior guard, averaged 6.8 and 6.2 points, respectively, last season.

Hannah is excited about the talent and effort she has surrounding her this year.

“I’m just trying to push my teammates to the best of my ability so that they give their all on the court just as I’m going to do,” Hannah said.

Hill’s team has “high excitement” for this year. The coaching staff believes that they have a good group of players that have been working hard to prepare for the season.

“Our returning players are more focused,” Hill said. “I feel as if they are more comfortable in the things that we do.”

VSU will play their first three games on the road, the last one being a conference showdown against Johnson C. Smith.

The Trojans will then face a tough road as it maneuvers through the CIAA.

Last year’s conference record of 5-12 and overall record of 11-16 is only motivation for the Trojans.

Hill is only focused on his team’s improvements with the program’s offensive sets and getting acclimated to the system.

“We were picked last, so the only way to go is up,” he said.

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