Off to a 3-0 start to the year, West Virginia’s women’s basketball team will leave the friendly confines of the WVU Coliseum for the first time this season this week.
The Mountaineers, guided by first-year head coach Dawn Plitzuweit, head to Cancun, Mexico for the Cancun Challenge, where they will get their first chance at facing a Power 5 opponent. WVU will face Central Michigan (0-4) on Thursday before facing No. 13 NC State (4-1) Friday afternoon.
Three games into this season, Plitzuweit has learned a lot about her team and vice versa. They are banking on learning a lot during their two international contests.
“We haven’t played a team that’s, you know, going to really punch us in the face,” said senior guard Madisen Smith. “Just to play a higher level team, that’s exciting to be able to play [one]. And just playing on the road, seeing how we can do with that.”
The Mountaineers have won their first three games by an average of 31 points per game, including a 50-point blowout over USC Upstate in the season opener.
Central Michigan has lost each of its contests by 15.25 points per game so far this year. NC State, meanwhile, has had an average margin of victory of nearly 45 points. NC State’s lone loss came at the hands of powerhouse UConn.
While a victory over the winless Chippewas will be expected, Friday’s matchup against a nationally ranked Wolfpack squad will be about more than the final score.
“We’ve got a long season ahead, so we’ve got to continue building,” Plitzuweit said following her team’s win Sunday over Appalachian State. “So for us, it can’t be just results-oriented, OK we won. It needs to be, here’s what we have to do better. This is what we did really well, this is where we improved from last game to this game. This is where we improved from two weeks ago to now. But here’s the next step for us.”
The opportunity to be on the road, play in a neutral site venue, and the potential to watch more film are some of the added benefits to the upcoming road trip for West Virginia.
Another benefit, according to the head coach, is it provides another chance to take a look at how West Virginia has fared in its first three games.
“We will do a self-scout – what do we have to work on for us,” said Plitzuweit, adding they’ll take a look outward at the next opponent after looking inward. “But the reality is, we have to continue working on us right now.”
Three home games have shown Plitzuweit that her team is competitive, which is a non-negotiable for her. Being competitive is something she expects. As part of the self-evaluation she’ll do of her team in the coming days, she’ll learn how competitive they can be away from home.
West Virginia will arrive in Mexico a few days before tipping off on Thursday. It will give the Mountaineers a chance to bond, study, and warm up in the sun. Once gameday arrives on Thanksgiving Day, though, the focus will shift back to the hardwood.
“I’m just excited to play, you know, play some really good competition and see what we can do with that,” said Smith.