New Cavaliers Bring Optimism for UVa Women

Amanda Fioravanti says she recently got a crash course in basketball at the college level -- literally.

"Pick-up was my first time getting a taste," the Virginia freshman said with a laugh. "Sarah (Imovbioh) flew me into the wall. I was a little nervous."

Fioravanti is one of the four first-year players on the Virginia women's basketball team who arrived on Grounds earlier this month to start their college careers with summer workouts. Fioravanti and Sydney Umeri have been working out for the past two weeks, with the Cavaliers' other post players.

"It's been a great experience; it's been a big adjustment," said Fioravanti. "Coming in from high school to college, you're working every day."

"My first couple days, it was hard. It was stressful," she added. "And coming into the workouts, the upperclassmen, they pick you up. They help you get through everything."

"It's definitely been hard. I will not lie to you," said Umeri. "Everything is intense. It's not like high school basketball. There's no breaks in between. And they demand a lot from you. They want you to hit those shots. They want you to go full speed, and they expect you to do it."

"But I think that with a team like this that's helping me through it, I'm going to be fine," Umeri added.

The Cavaliers' other newcomers are both guards -- Breyana Mason and Tiffany Suarez. Like their frontcourt counterparts, Mason and Suarez say they're getting more comfortable each day.

"Coming in, it was a lot more pressure on you," said Suarez. "Now it's more like taking it a day at a time. Get better each day. It's okay to make mistakes now. You feel more comfortable around your team."

"It's fun, getting pushed out of your comfort zone. Getting better," said Mason. "Even as a person, and as a player. And mentally, you're becoming better."

This class of freshmen is the most highly regarded of Joanne Boyle's tenure at UVa, ranking No. 10 nationally according to, and 17th in the country by

All four players were graded as four-star recruits coming out of high school, with Umeri regarded as the best prospect -- she consistently ranked among the top 30 players in the country. Both Mason (Virginia) and Fioravanti (Maryland) were named Gatorade state player of the year as seniors.

All four first-years have already made a strong impression on one of their new teammates -- All-ACC senior guard Ataira Franklin.

"It's just really exciting, because they're clearly hungry," Franklin said. "They're always in the gym, always wanting to put up shots. It's always, "Hey, can you come pick me up, take me to the gym?"

Franklin also had quick scouting reports on her new teammates, saying Umeri is more mobile than previous post players she's played with at UVa, and describing Fioravanti as a blue-collar player, who's willing to do some dirty work on the low block.

Franklin also said Suarez will bring length and athleticism to the UVa backcourt. And Mason -- who broke former Cavalier Monica Wright's career scoring record at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge -- reminds Franklin of a different former UVa guard -- Ariana Moorer.

Franklin also said the freshman class has brought something else to the Cavaliers -- optimism.

"It feels new. It feels like we're going to have a fresh start. And we're just ready to go," Franklin said. "Everyone is excited; everybody's pumped. Everybody's ready to get going."

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