The Union University Lady Bulldogs enter the 2005-06 season fresh off their NAIA National Championship from a year ago. Union lost four seniors to graduation, however, have reloaded and are poised to compete once again for the NAIA’s big prize.
“Our expectations do not change from year to year, they remain the same”, says Union head coach Mark Campbell. “The difference in the start of this and the start of last season is that all but two of our players know exactly what we are doing and why we are doing it. And the two new faces to our team are catching on fast.”
Union returns seven players from last season, including five players that were starters at some point last season, All-American Merideth Richardson, All-Conference Ena Daniels, and TranSouth All-Freshman Crystal Eason. Also returning is Jennifer Henson, Tiffany Fisher, Natanya Smith, and Peggy McCain. Two players join the roster this year, but are not new to the program. Latorya Fuller played for Union as a sophomore, then red-shirted last season. Also, coming off a red-shirt season is Josephine Owino. The two new faces for Union this year are junior transfer D.J. Sissoko from Knoxville College, and freshman Jessica Graves out of Humboldt High School.
The senior class for Union consists of four players, Jennifer Henson, Ena Daniels, Peggy McCain, and Tiffany Fisher. These players have a great deal of experience in post season play and will need to continue to be leaders both on and off the court for a team that will start and play numerous underclassmen.
Three juniors dot the Union roster this season. Returning post player Natanya Smith, Latorya Fuller, and transfer D.J. Sissoko. Smith and Sissoko will be called on to help fill the void left by NAIA Player of the Year and national tournament MVP, Stephanie Clark. Fuller also joins that sophomore class and will provide experience and athleticism at the guard position that many fans saw two years ago from her as a sophomore.
The sophomore class for Union is extremely talented and was a big factor in the success winning last season’s national title. Merideth Richardson and Crystal Eason both started last season and made great strides, especially in the national tournament.
The freshman class could see both players in the starting lineup at some point this season. Jessica Graves was one of the top recruited players in West Tennessee this past year. She is a great athlete with the ability to shoot three’s with the best and is a great ball handler that will help get the entire offense involved. The other freshman, Josephine Owino comes off a red-shirt year where she practiced behind Clark all year. She is well prepared to help fill that void along with Smith and Sissako.
Coach Campbell states, “Our big question mark this year is our post play. The three post players are improving every day and as they get better, our team gets better. “
Union was voted by the TranSouth coaches to finished second in the TranSouth standings behind Freed-Hardeman. The Lady Bulldogs will play to win their 10th regular season conference championships in the past 11 years. The Union Lady Bulldogs have played in 11 straight conference tournament championship games, winning nine of those. Union is also looking to advance to their 17th NAIA National Tournament, where Union as a .731 (38-14) winning percentage, two national titles (1998, 2005), four championship game appearances, and six final four appearances.