Since the 2016 arrival of head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, the UCF Women’s Basketball team has been on quite the journey. Four straight 20-win seasons, four consecutive first-round byes in the American Athletic Conference Tournament and three postseason appearances – with a potential fourth that was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic? There hasn’t been a better stretch in the program’s history, at least not in its time at the Division I level.
But as impressive as the journey has been to this point in the Abrahamson-Henderson era, it still feels like this thing is only getting started for the Knights. In fact, that journey’s next step is here.
And it deserves your attention.
Over the last four years, Coach Abe has gotten her team into the AAC’s upper echelon. Along with UConn—the sport’s biggest powerhouse—and rival South Florida, UCF has been one of the most consistent squads in the conference. And now, UConn is gone. The Huskies have officially departed for the Big East, creating a massive opportunity for the rest of the AAC to rise up and claim the throne that Geno Auriemma’s program has had a stranglehold on since the conference’s inception.
Make no mistake: UCF should be one of the favorites not only to win the AAC this year but to compete at the top of the standings for years to come. That’s simply a testament to what Abrahamson-Henderson has built since her arrival in Orlando.
In the 2020-21 preseason poll, the Knights were picked to finish second in the AAC, earning 79 points and a first-place vote. The rival Bulls, a team the Knights have beaten four straight times, are the conference’s preseason favorite. But let’s be honest: With UConn gone, the path is there for just about any team to take the crown and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament that comes with it. UCF is going to be in the mix, and it’s going to be a season-long battle. There’s no doubt that this is a group that is prepared for that.
Despite having to replace program legend Kay Kay Wright, the Knights bring back an experienced lineup this year. That includes four starters from the 2019-20 team that finished 20-10 overall and 11-5 in the AAC. Seniors Masseny Kaba and Courtajia Sanders, as well as juniors Diamond Battles and Brittney Smith, are set to lead the way. Smith, a Preseason First-Team All-AAC selection, started all 30 of the team’s games last year. Add in 29 games (29 starts) from Kaba, 30 games (18 starts) from Battles and 30 games (19 starts) from Sanders, and you have a lineup full of players who have seen meaningful minutes in their college careers.
UCF is talented and its players have taken to Abrahamson-Henderson’s style exceptionally well in the last four seasons. When you add skill and discipline together, you get the potential for something special. And considering that there’s a legitimate path to the top of the AAC, you just know this is going to be a hungry team. With early-season non-conference matchups against Virginia, LSU, Florida Gulf Coast and Georgia Tech to get them prepped for what will be a difficult conference slate, the Knights are going to be battle-tested.
Adversity breeds strength, and that’s sure to be true for this UCF Women’s Basketball team. This is going to be a fun ride, and now is the time for Knight Nation to get on board. If you give this team your attention and support, it’ll mean so much more when Coach Abe and her players take the program to even greater heights, perhaps as early as next March.
The Knights open up their 2020-21 season Wednesday night at Addition Financial Arena, hosting the ACC’s Virginia Cavaliers. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m., and if you aren’t able to make it to the arena to be among the 25%-capacity crowd, you can catch the game on ESPN+.