Lindsey Spann and Sierra Moore both spent last winter on the Penn State sidelines, but for entirely different reasons.
Spann, a highly touted freshman guard from Laurel, Md., had to rehabilitate a right knee injury that occurred during a summer workout in July. She spent a good part of her time riding a bicycle instead of dribbling a basketball.
Moore, a former standout at Delone Catholic, had to sit out the season per NCAA rules after transferring to Penn State following her freshman season at Duke. Often, she was on the practice team that played against the Lady Lions.
Not surprisingly, the two — who were friends prior to arriving in Happy Valley — are a little anxious to see some real action in a Lady Lion uniform.
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And with four departed seniors, Coach Coquese Washington is anxious to give them their chance.
Spann and Moore are vying for the open spots in the Penn State lineup heading into the season opener against Towson on Nov. 14. Fans can get their first look at the Lady Lions on Sunday in a 2 p.m. exhibition contest against Indiana, Pa.
While Washington didn’t name a starting lineup at the team’s annual Media Day on Monday, it appears Spann and Moore are a big part of her plans this season.
And that’s okay with Spann and Moore.
“I’m really excited,” said Spann, who will see action at point guard. “It’s been awhile.”
“I can’t wait.” Moore said. “I’ve been waiting for this for awhile now. It’s been a really long time since I’ve actually got on the court and played. I’m excited to get that chance again.”
With the graduation of Big Ten Player of the Year Maggie Lucas, Ariel Edwards, Dara Taylor and Talia East, Washington loses 56.5 points, 20.5 rebounds, 321 assists and 205 steals.
That’s why play from two new faces, along with several returnees, will be critical for the three-time defending Big Ten regular-season champs.
“I’m hoping they have a big impact,” Washington said of Spann and Moore. “They’re both very talented players. ... The two of them when they’re on the floor together, they play very well off of each other and create opportunities for their teammates. We will count on them to make plays for us and be dynamic players.”
Spann shows no signs of the right ACL tear that kept her on the sidelines last season. She said she made the most of the year off.
“It was a long time but I took a lot from it,” said Spann, who is the only freshman in eligbilty on the team. “I tried to look at it as something more positive than a setback.”
Spann has to jump in and play the toughest position on the floor for Washington, a former point guard.
“There’s a lot more you have to look at and see a lot faster,” Spann said. “The big thing between high school and college is the game is a lot faster. From the point guard position, you have to read things a lot quicker, see open teammates and scan the floor.”
Washington said Spann is picking things up well.
“She’s a sponge,” Washington said. “She’s a pretty quick learner. She’s going to make mistakes but she learns from her mistakes. She is getting more confident as every week goes by. She’s getting a feel for the speed and strength of the game.”
Moore has one season under her belt, but played sparingly and out of her natural position at Duke.
The 5-foot-11 sophomore spent much of last season and this past summer working on her mid-range jump shot, a skill that she lost while playing in the post in Durham, N.C.
Her intensity is already drawing raves from her coaches and teammates.
“She wants to win,” forward Peyton Whitted said of Moore. “She doesn’t like losing. It’s good to have that in practice every day.”
“She is a really explosive player,” Washington said. “She gets to the basket. ... She reminds me of Maggie and Alex (Bentley) in a sense of how competitive she is. She just finds a way to make plays, win scrimmages or win the drill that we’re doing. She really, really hates to lose.”
Moore is looking forward to playing before Pennsylvania fans again. She scored 2,595 points for Delone Catholic.
“They’re really getting excited and its great to see that because I was born and raised here,” Moore said. “It’s just great to be back here and know that I’m going to have a lot of people that knew me come back and support us.”
Washington admits the Lady Lion fans will see a lot of new things this season.
“We’re going to be different,” said Washington, the three-time reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year. “One of the things I like about this team is there is going to be more sharing of the wealth.
“We’ve been a team that has had some really dynamic individual players — Alex Bentley, Nikki Greene and Maggie Lucas — who could take over the game at any time. I think this is a team that has a lot of pieces that can contribute. I think that’s going to be cool for us to coach and it will be see interesting night-in and night-out who steps up and makes impactful plays.”
Forward Tori Waldner (4.8 ppg and 5.6 rpg) is the lone returning starter. Forwards Kaliyah Mitchell (4.5 ppg) and Whitted (2.9 ppg) and center Candice Agee (3.1 ppg) saw the most time off of the bench.
“Everyone is going to play,” Whitted said. “Everyone has something to give, on this team especially.”
“It’s coming together really well,” Washington said. “We’re starting to gel and develop an on-court chemistry which is necessary. The game is starting to slow down for the team. I’m really happy with their effort and their energy. They’ve grown a lot in the last two weeks. I think that’s going to be one of the trademarks for this team this year — how we get better day-by-day and week-by-week.”
The Lady Lions know that not many expect them to contend for another Big Ten crown. Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska and Iowa are the preseason favorites.
“It’s new for us,” Moore said. “We’ve got to earn everything now.”
Washington says her expectations have not changed.
“Our expectation is simple — we’re going to get better every day, every week, every month of the season. We want to play our best basketball at the end of the season. Our expectation is to win it. How we do those things and what it looks like on the court may change.”