By Ben Fletcher
The Virginia Wesleyan Men’s Basketball team has had no problem starting its season off on the right track, history shows. Over the past three seasons, the team has posted a 4-1 record in its first five games, which usually feature mostly out-of-conference opponents. So far this year, the Marlins have continued their past dominance outside of the ODAC as they have won each of their first four games.
The team began its season with the 14th annual Marlin Tip-Off tournament at home which also featured Delaware Valley College, Newport News Apprentice School and The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).
The Marlins, ranked 19th nationally, faced TCNJ for the first game of the year. The Marlins overwhelmed the Lions defense with a 91-60 victory in which six Marlins posted double-digit scoring. With the win, the team advanced to the championship of the tournament facing Newport News Apprentice School.
The fellow Hampton Roads rival forced the Marlins to play a hectic first half up and down the court, but they would eventually tire as VWC won 87-68.
The following week VWC took on Salisbury University, a team that defeated the Marlins two years ago. History would not repeat itself, however. The team beat the Seagulls 79-65.
VWC then traveled to Fayetteville, N.C., to take on Methodist University for the first road game of the year. Senior captain Greg Montgomery scored in double digits for the fourth straight game, leading the Marlins, by this point ranked 12th nationally, to an 89-71 win over the Monarchs.
“We get off to good starts year after year because of the leadership from upperclassmen, continuing to follow the example set by past teammates, and we feel very strongly that we have the best coach in the country,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery has been essential to the Marlins’ early success this season, averaging nearly double-double numbers. So far, the senior is leading his team with 19 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game, all while shooting an impressive 55.6% from the field.
“My role has definitely increased,” Montgomery said. “We lost a lot of scoring and leadership from last year, and I felt like it was my turn. My role has increased significantly as a defender, scorer, but also as a leader. I love it and I know that it is my last chance to be a part of this team.”
Of course, one player can’t win a game and Montgomery knows that. “I credit my success so far this season to my teammates and my coaching staff for having supreme confidence in me. When I’m playing with confidence I feel like the sky is the limit,” Montgomery said.
One teammate whom Montgomery has been able to count on for consistent production is fellow senior and team captain Cam Owens.
Owens has been a consistent shooter for the Marlins, scoring 15.8 points per game while shooting 54.8% from the field. The senior has also proven to be a lethal shooter from behind the arc, posting a 57.9% shooting percentage from the three-point line. Owens has also done it on the defensive side of the ball, averaging close to two steals per game. Like Montgomery, Owens says he feels that he could not be successful without his teammates.
“Everyone has a role to play, and when your teammates have confidence in you and look for ways to get you the ball, there is no better feeling,” Owens said.
In order to have such a consistent program over the past few years, a coach is needed who approaches every game the same way. So how does head coach Dave Macedo get his players ready for every game?
“I’d say our preparation is something that sets us apart from other teams,”Owens said. “He scouts other teams for hours so we know their key players, what types of plays they run, and what we need to do to win. Having Coach Macedo gives us a huge competitive advantage.”
Virginia Wesleyan now turns its attention to ODAC play. The Marlins should expect heavy competition with the target they have on their backs as returning conference champions. One thing is for sure, the ODAC is definitely not going to get any easier.
“I expect it to be brutal, I expect it to be as competitive as ever, and I expect that, night in and night out, that we will have to be at our best each time we hit the floor,” Macedo said.