The College of Southern Maryland women's basketball season tips off November 8 when the Hawks host the Bryant & Stratton College (VA) Bobcats.
CSM will play three more home games before going on the road for the first time when they play in the Harford Hoops Classic November 29 and 30. There they will face Hostos Community College and Nassau Community College.
The Hawks will have their rematch with 2018-19 Region XX Division II Tournament Champions Chesapeake College on January 17. Last year, the Hawks' season ended when they fell 73-62 to the Skipjacks in the Region XX Division II Tournament championship game. On their way to the title game, No. 7 seed CSM upset No. 2 seed CCBC Catonsville and No. 3 seed Potomac State College of WVU.
CSM head coach Ardell Jackson said he and his team have their sights set on returning to the regional title game, but this year, they plan on leaving with a different result - a win.
"This team, I've been excited about since they all got registered and were ready for class," Jackson said. "This team is probably, to me, one of the best all-around teams that we've had at CSM in my five years. Now, I tell them all the time, 'You've got to get back to Region XX and win it' in order to be considered the best team, because last year's team got to Region XX, but they come up short. Right now, last year's team is, to me, still the best because they were the team to get us there. But that's just a challenge to those girls. They're doing a good job of taking the challenge. They really want to put something up there on that wall. They walk in everyday and look up there, and they say 'Coach, we're going to get one' and they put the work in."
When examining this year's roster, Jackson said, "We have a lot of great pieces."
One of those pieces is sophomore Amaya Yancey, who returns to CSM after being named a 2018-19 NJCAA Third Team All-American and leading all NJCAA Division II players in 3-point field goal percentage and assists per game last year.
Jackson said Yancey, captain for this year's team, decided to come back because she felt like she had "unfinished business. Her thing is to get back to the Region XX championship game and win it. That's what she came back for, so she doesn't want to leave here without one."
With the rest of the cast on this year's team, Jackson said this may be the best offensive team he has had in his five years here at CSM. "We have shooters, we have penetrators, we have kids that can put it on the floor at every position. We are going to have a great, balanced offensive attack. We have a lot of high IQ basketball players. We have a much deeper bench, so we'll have much more scoring off the bench than we've ever had in the past."
Jackson said his team has "five or six kids on the bench that can actually start for any other junior college program. They can even start here, on any given night they can be inserted into the starting lineup and give you something.
"I don't feel like we have one weak area on our team right now. I think we have a lot of kids with very positive attitudes. It doesn't matter when they get in the game, they're going to contribute in a lot of ways, but scoring off the bench and defense off the bench is going to be big."
In order for this team to accomplish their goal of winning a Region XX title, "The biggest key is staying positive," Jackson said. "One of the biggest things when you have such a young team is you've just got to stay positive at all times. You've got to coach them in a positive manner; a lot of development, a lot of teaching, a lot of encouragement, a lot of confidence building. I always tell them, when your confidence is high, when you believe in yourself, you can do anything. Never doubt what you can accomplish, just go out there and work hard."
Jackson said the lessons he tries to teach his players don't only apply to their actions on the court, they are also key life lessons.
"One of the biggest things with us is, we're not just coaching them from an athletic standpoint, but we're trying to coach them from a life standpoint," Jackson said. "Take some of this and carry it on to your life. Set high goals, reach out, achieve them, work hard to get there. We don't like the word 'can't'. That's one of the things we don't use in practice, 'I can't.' Everybody can do something. So if you're working hard, if you give me everything you've got and you're trying to push through that wall, you can accomplish anything."