Women’s basketball embraces new identity for 2022-2023 season


Kaitlyn Keppler

Sophomore guard Taylor Bell (left) accompanies senior point guard Cierra Carpenter (right) up the court at the University Center during practice in preparation for the season.

Southeastern women’s basketball is preparing for an exciting 2022-2023 season with the first game to be held Nov. 7 against LSUA at 5 p.m. in the University Center.

The Lady Lions experienced a challenging season last year, finishing 16-11 overall and 10-4 in the Southland Conference. This year, the squad is expected to embrace their “new identity” and play more diligently than ever.

Ayla Guzzardo will be starting her sixth year as head coach this season. She said she is very optimistic about her team’s success for the upcoming campaign, as they have had a phenomenal preseason so far.

She emphasized the new spirit her team will be bringing onto the court, saying, “We’re a completely different team than we were last year. We’ve got a lot of people stepping up into some big-time roles like Alexius Horne and Hailey Giaratano, those two have had a phenomenal preseason.”

Giaratano was named All-Southland and All-Louisiana after starting all 27 games last season. Horne was the first player in Southeastern’s history to be named Freshman of the Year by the Southland Conference in 2020.

Horne is returning this year after having to take off last season due to injury. She said she continuously pushes herself to get better and play better no matter what it takes. Sometimes, Horne visits the gym three times a day for extra training.

The junior guard commented on her offseason, saying, “Last year, I was trying to get back to normal, and my teammates and coaches helped pick me up. I’ve been working out with my coaches and my teammates and making sure I’m doing the right things. I believe our objective is to play together as a team and win.” 

Giaratano has taken up a leadership role this season. She said, “You know, we lost a lot last year. We had three main seniors we lost, but we’ve really come into the role of taking leadership, and really just preaching to them that it’s a team game. That’s what we play here. I’ve always taken this role seriously on and off the court. I try to do everything right so that they can follow my example.”

The Lady Lions’ starting lineup is expected to have a strong season as well. Coach Guzzardo said, “Our bench has also seen some production. We’ve got Taylor Bell coming off the bench. Sierra Cunningham is being solid for us in the point guard position. Then we also have a new addition with a freshman Jalencia Pierre. She’s coming in with quickness and burst of speed, it’s elite speed, unlike anybody that we’ve seen for a while.”

This year the Lady Lions will go forward without Morgan Carrier, Caitlyn Williams and Morgan Davis, who have recently graduated. All three seniors were exceptional players and will be missed. 

Coach Guzzardo said, “I don’t think that you can ever replace those three. It was a great year with them, but the way we’re playing right now, we’re doing a lot of stuff differently. We’re able to shoot the ball a little bit more from the perimeter. We were more inside last year, this year I know we’re gonna be a lot more outside, but, the keys right now are we’re distributing the ball. We’re putting the ball in the right people’s hands. We’re showing a lot of mismatch potential from ISO situations. So it’s working out for us really well.” 

This season has a lot of big-name schools on the agenda such as LSU, Alabama and Utah. 

Coach Guzzardo noted, “We do a great job with our non-conference schedules. Scheduling teams that are, I guess in a way better than us, bigger than us, those are the types of teams that we’re gonna see in the NCAA tournament, and that’s what we’re really caring towards. If we can produce and handle that hostile environment going to LSU, that’s gonna be a tough game. It’s gonna be a physical game, it’s gonna be an emotional game. It’s gonna be a whole bunch of different types of feelings, but if we can handle that, we’re going to be prepared when we get to the NCAA tournament and ultimately through conference.”

This season’s women’s basketball schedule can be found at 

https://lionsports.net/sports/womens-basketball/schedule .