The Drury Lady Panthers will enter the 2019-2020 season with dreams of winning a national championship at the Women’s Elite Eight in Birmingham, Alabama.
In most years, you wouldn’t find them holding a full practice in early August.
But, this isn’t most years.
“I was [just] excited to get my passport in the mail, that’s how excited I was to go on this trip,” said Drury senior Daejah Bernard.
Bernard will use that passport as she and her teammates head north to Canada.
“I’m going into it blind, I’m planning on saying ‘eh’ to a few people,” said Drury freshman Alana Findley.
Findley and the Lady Panthers will play a four-game exhibition schedule in Ottawa and Quebec.
That means Drury has been able to practice in preparation for the trip.
“We’re kind of making it loose and fun and just focusing on us and our chemistry together, instead of the nitty-gritty details, that’ll come later,” said Drury Head Coach Molly Miller.
That will come during the normal practice period, which begins in mid-October.
Still, it’s a chance for Miller and her staff to introduce four freshmen and one transfer to their system.
“Getting these team practices in this early allows us to not only develop chemistry, but allows us to get some of our branding stuff in, especially on defense,” Miller said.
As the incoming players learn the defense, they’re also going to learn about their new teammates.
“The experiences you get on a road trip are so valuable,” said Miller. “Especially when you’re spending 24 hours a day with each other in another country.”
The trip also gives the Lady Panthers the chance to officially turn the page to the upcoming season.
It’s a welcome opportunity after last year ended with a loss in the national semifinals.
“When Coach Miller texted us, like hey what do you guys think about going to Canada? It was like ‘yeah lets go, everybody wants to be in the gym and everybody’s invested and I think that’s what sets this team apart’,” Bernard said.
It’s an investment Drury hopes will result in another trip to the Women’s Elite Eight.
When it comes to goals like that, you can never start too early.
“The road to Birmingham obviously starts in August for us and that’s kind of exciting,” Miller said.
It’s an exciting time ahead of what’s likely to be an exciting season.
The Lady Panthers leave for their trip on Friday.
When they return, they will need to follow the NCAA guidelines of limited practice time each week before officially practices begin this fall.