When Carley Kuhns was introduced as the next head coach of the Valdosta State women's basketball program, she said she wanted to hang banners in The Complex.
No one expected that to happen in year one, but at the halfway point of the season, VSU is on track to do just that.
After winning five of six in December, including four straight conference wins to close out 2016, the Lady Blazers find themselves in a four-way tie for the Gulf South Conference lead.
"It's been a little bit of a pleasant surprise for us," Kuhns says. "I think everyone's starting to buy in, and we're starting to get our momentum."
"We've been working hard, so we're not surprised," says junior forward Kenya Dixon. "It's just like a high. We're just enjoying the ride."
Four players are averaging double figures in points. Former Crisp Academy star Madi Mitchell is averaging a double-double at 16.6 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game. Those figures have her 3rd in the Gulf South Conference in both categories.
Kuhns says her team has been hard to guard over the last month. She says that has made this winning streak a lot of fun, even if a little unexpected.
"We saw some success early, and we were in ballgames. I thought it was going to take us a little longer to figure out how to win," Kuhns says. "But they've done it, and they're continuing to do it."
Kuhns admits when she stated her championship goals at her introductory press conference, she didn't expect those to be met in year one. But now, standing atop the leaderboard as the calendar turns to 2017, she and the team are believing a conference title is a realistic goal.
"[Coach] believes in us. We bought into the system early," Dixon says. "What you put in is what you get out, and now we're here."
"It's going to be a tough road, and there's a lot of parity in our conference," Kuhns says. "But we're just trying to take it one game at a time, get better every day, and just continue to grow and build."
The Lady Blazers got even better news during the holiday break.
Dixon has been granted a medical hardship by the NCAA, meaning she will have one more year of eligibility. The Baton Rouge native is now officially a junior, and will return to the Blazers for the 2017-2018 season. VSU will now return every player from this team that is suddenly red hot.
"Everybody is not as fortunate, so when you get an opportunity like this, you have to take advantage," Dixon says.
The Lady Blazers tip off a key three-game road trip Saturday at Lee. The Flames are also tied for the Gulf South lead. That game is scheduled for a 2:00 tip time.
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