Its hard not to feel a void left by two players who moved beyond their University of Miami uniforms to play at the next level.
Early in a season without WNBA draftees Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams, coach Katie Meier said the Hurricanes (4-1) keep finding things out about themselves.
One of the lessons learned at the finale of the Thanksgiving Tournament at BankUnited Center was that there are new leaders to fill the holes. Women with the confidence to motivate their young team, even from the bench.
There was a taste of that leadership Friday night in the tournament-openers win over Florida Atlantic. It became much clearer in Saturdays 75-58 victory over the Radford Highlanders (3-2) in the championship game, that seniors Stefanie Yderstrom and Morgan Stroman are the driving forces behind the energy and work ethic of this seasons team.
I feed off [Stefs] energy, and I feel like the whole team feeds off my energy when I get hyped, Stroman said. Thats what I like to do, I like to have everybody hyped with me. Its not fun to be out there by yourself.
The pair combined for 17 of Miamis 31 points in the first half, despite Yderstrom playing only seven minutes before early fouls put her on the bench. Yderstrom was named to the All-Tournament team, and Stroman was the tournament MVP.
[They] just took care of business tonight throughout the entire game, Meier said of her seniors.
A day after passing the 1,000-point mark in her career, Stroman dominated the Highlanders with her relentless rebounding. Her 22 points fell one short of her career high, and she added 11 rebounds and three assists.
Yderstrom posted 15 points with six assists, and junior Krystal Saunders chipped in 13 points and five rebounds.
Meier joked that the team challenged Saunders to match her age in points, as she celebrated her birthday.
Krystal had a very special game, Meier said. She made some calls to me to tell me what to call, which I love. .... Thats when I know theyre confident.
Radford stayed close in the second half, tying the score twice. On both occasions, it was Stroman and Maria Brown fighting together to take possession and get Miami ahead.
With 2:28 to go, the Canes went on a run extending their lead and holding Radford at 58 points for the remainder of the game.
Confidence will be a big factor for the Miami women when sixth-ranked Penn State comes to BankUnited Center on Thursday.
We are better than we were a week ago, Meier said. And if I can say that every week of the season, I think youre going to like our product at the end of the year.