- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Washington Mystics finished 22-12 last season, good for first place in the Eastern Conference, but a first-round sweep by the Atlanta Dream made the season feel like more of a failure than a success.

This year, there is a different look and feel about the Mystics, sparked by new coach and general manager Trudi Lacey, the return of All-Star guard Alana Beard, and brand new red, white and blue uniforms.

But the most important change will be the system Lacey implements, one that emphasizes speed, defense and post play. That is what the players believe will take them far beyond a first-round exit this season.

“I preach defense every day. I saw a glimpse of it today [during the scrimmage],” Lacey said.

“The Blue Team was down, they turned up the defense and came back and won, so that’s like music to my ears. We’re working on it. It’s going to take us some time, but it’ll come,” Lacey said. “I’m super excited that we’ll have a post presence this year, and we have a lot of weapons to change the tempo defensively,” Lacey said.

The team has six players in camp considered to be post players — Chastity Melvin, Crystal Langhorne, Ta’Shia Phillips, Victoria Dunlap, Nicky Anosike and Karima Christmas — but the team has only 10 roster spots available and 15 players are still in camp. The team released Maurita Reid and Sequoia Holmes on Tuesday.

A WNBA roster caries 11 players, but one spot will be held open for forward Monique Currie, who will miss the season with an ACL injury. The Mystics faced the same situation last year, having only 10 healthy players available. A roster spot had to be held for Beard, who was out all last season with an Achilles’ tendon injury.

In addition to improved defense and post play, Lacey wants the team to run more than it did last year.

“We’re going to sprint north to south, we’ll see a little more movement off the ball, and hopefully we’ll be able to rebound, defend, and run,” Lacey said.

The transition to Lacey as the coach has been smooth since she’s been on the staff as an assistant the past two seasons.

“The adjustment hasn’t been hard at all,” Beard said. “She’s been the one we’ve gone and talked to whenever we had problems or just confided in. I don’t think we could have picked a better coach.”

Beard also expects a better flow on the court under Lacey.

“I think there will be a change. I think Trudi does a great job of implementing plays that play to the strength of the players. We have a lot of players who can create their own shot and can get out and run,” Beard said.

“I think this is going to be an exciting system to play in.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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