Lady Monarchs Gain New Blood Before Sun Belt Conference

By Art Neal, Assistant Sports Editor

This article first appeared in the fall 2022 Mace & Crown magazine issue. 


Back in October, the Lady Monarchs were working hard to be at their best for their debut season in the Sun Belt conference. The season opener will find ODU in Florida as they travel to the Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 7, 2022. The home opener will come eight days later on Nov. 15th as the Lady Monarchs face Virginia opponent William and Mary. As the new year approaches, Old Dominion will take on Appalachian State in Boone, NC to open its Sun Belt campaign on Dec. 28, 2022. 


Head coach Delisha Milton-Jones and crew have many players coming back that were integral to the team’s success last year in C-USA play. ODU women’s basketball finished 24-10 last year while having a C-USA record of 12-6. Sadly, they made early exits in the C-USA tournament, where they were beaten in the quarterfinals. They also made a second-round exit in the Women’s NIT. This year they have veterans in both the frontcourt and the guard positions which provides the experience and leadership needed to excel in high-pressure contests in the regular season and the postseason. 


The Lady Monarchs had some changeover this past offseason as three out of their five starters from last season graduated. The backcourt trio Mariah Adams, Iggy Allen, and Ajah Wayne contributed heavily to the team’s offensive production this past year. In her final season at ODU, Allen averaged a team-leading 15.4 PPG. Despite being a guard, Allen led the team in rebounding with 7.4 rebounds per game and piled on team-best seven double-doubles on the season, which ranked fourth best in Conference USA. This dominant final performance led her to a C-USA first-team nomination. Adams acted as the facilitator for the team as she averaged 4.6 assists per game in her last season, which led the team and C-USA, having a season-high of nine assists at Florida Atlantic. Finally, senior Ajah Wayne did a bit of everything for the team, earning a First-team All-conference nomination in her final year where she was second on the team in PPG (12.7) and third in RPG (5.6). In addition, Wayne found herself on the charity stripe often, leading to a ranking as seventh in the conference in free throw makes and attempts. 


There are some returning veterans, including forwards Brianna Jackson and Amari Young, as well as guard Kaye Clark, who all got substantial playing time last year and hope to further expand their roles this year. With the return of Jackson and Young, the Lady Monarchs’ starting frontcourt will probably be the same as it was last year, which could bring some leadership and experience to the rest of the team. In the 2021-22 season, Jackson averaged 7.3PPG and 5.2RPG, and her presence was definitely felt on the defensive end as she averaged 1.44 blocks per game, which ranked fifth in C-USA. Young also had a dominant all-around year in the 2021-22 season, as she averaged 9.1 PPG and 5.8 RPG with 1.6 steals per contest with a season-high six steals against UTSA in the C-USA tournament. Finally, Kaye Clark made an impact coming off the bench last year behind the seasoned backcourt of Adams, Allen, and Wayne, averaging 4.6 PPG and 2.4 RPG and also snagging 1.6 steals per contest, similar to Young. 


In addition to the returning talent for the Lady Monarchs, head coach Milton-Jones has brought in a group of talented transfers. . Notable additions include Makayla Dickens, a 5’8” guard whose hometown is Virginia Beach, but who went to play in the ACC for Boston College during the first four years of her collegiate career. During her senior season for the Golden Eagles, she made a significant impact off the bench, averaging 9.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, and sinking 52 three-pointers on the season. This set her apart, as she was one of two in the ACC and the nation to put up numbers like this. Another addition to the front court is Jordan McLaughlin, a transfer from Chipola College. She averaged 12.4 PPG on shooting, 46.2% from the field, and 36.4% from behind the arch.


Transfer Althea Kara Angeles will add to the backcourt and give some potential offensive production. While at Lamar Community College she averaged 17.6 PPG, which increased to 21.3PPG in wins last year. A few more transfers are arriving to boost the frontcourt including forwarding Brenda Fontana from UTEP, a former opponent in C-USA, to play for the Lady Monarchs in their first season in the Sun Belt. While playing for the Miners, Fontana averaged 5.4 PPG and 3.6 RPG in 28 contests. Another addition to the front court is Jada Duckett, a Miami of Ohio transfer who averaged 4.0 PPG and 4.3 RPG in varying minutes in her sophomore season. 


With the introduction to a new conference this year, the Sun Belt, the lingering question remains: How will the Lady Monarchs stack up against their competition? When asked about the schedule and how the team will fare against new competition, Milton Jones pointed to non-conference games as the test. 


“Our non-conference schedule is loaded with teams mostly on the east coast and includes a stretch of five or six home games. This will allow our faithful fans to get a glimpse of our new additions to our Monarch family heading into Sun Belt Conference play. Our off-season has been filled with an emphasis on building our sisterhood on and off the court. Playing a tough non-conference schedule will challenge us to put that on display every night we suit up.” 


The Lady Monarchs look ready to make a strong start in their first season in Sun Belt play and have acquired players, both veteran and new, who have the talent they need to continue the program’s previous success.