MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Ten days lay between the West Virginia women’s basketball team’s ‘Haunted Hoops’ exhibition against Fairmont State on Sunday and the club’s regular-season opener on Nov. 10.
Over the course of those 10 days, West Virginia’s players and coaches will continue to get more familiar with one another and the playbook.
Following play on Sunday, though, it’s clear that first-year head coach Dawn Plitzuweit has already made an impression on her players.
“Personally, I’ve never had a coach bring so much energy,” said junior Savannah Samuel, one of just four players who appeared in a game for the Mountaineers last season. “With her presence, and how she encourages us instead of just [breaking] us down or anything. She kind of lights a fire up underneath us and makes us all want to play really hard.”
Plitzuweit was hired in late March after former head coach Mike Carey announced his retirement following the end of the 2021-22 season. Plitzuweit came to West Virginia after a successful stop at South Dakota that included four NCAA Tournament appearances, and being named the recipient of the annual Kay Yow Award.
Her first team with the program is not only new to her, but largely new to the program as a whole.
Twelve of the 13 players on the roster are brand new to Plitzuweit and her staff. The only familiar face is redshirt sophomore guard Kyah Watson, who transferred to WVU from South Dakota.
Six of the players on this year’s West Virginia women’s basketball squad, including Watson, were not with the program at all last year. Three more, including Top 100 guard/forward Messiah Hunter, redshirted with the Mountaineers during the 2021-22 season. A total of nine players have never suited up for the Mountaineers, and only one has ever suited up for Plitzuweit.
That leaves just four who, before Sunday, had previously played in front of a crowd inside the WVU Coliseum.
“Everything is going pretty well. Obviously, at first, new coaches, new players, new teammates, new system, everything was new,” said Samuel. “But we’ve been working hard every day, all through the summer, all up until this day, and I feel like everyone’s adjusting. We’re starting to learn everything, we’re starting to get acclimated to all the new plays, and her style. And like [Madisen Smith] said, the sky’s the limit for us.”
Guards Jayla Hemingway, JJ Quinerly, and Madisen Smith join Samuel in that foursome of experienced returning Mountaineers. They combined for 47 of West Virginia’s 83 points in Sunday’s exhibition.
Hemingway, who was pleased with the chemistry she saw on the court against Fairmont State, credits practices over the summer and in the buildup to the regular season for the team’s solid starting spot from a chemistry aspect.
As for the team’s leader, Plitzuweit, there’s no difference between what the players get in practice, and what they get during a game.
“She’s pretty much the same all the time,” said Hemingway, laughing as she answered. “She’s high energy, and she’s a really great coach. So, I’m really happy to be playing for her.”