Tennessee’s women’s basketball team is confident heading into coach Kellie Harper’s third season at the helm of the Lady Vols’ program.
The Lady Vols received bad news this preseason, however. Tennessee’s versatile wing Marta Suárez is out for the entire 2021-22 season with a foot injury.
“We do have a few players, who may or may not be on the court today, banged up,” Harper said at Thursday’s media day. “Nothing serious, with the exception of Marta Suárez, who does have a foot injury. She will not be playing this year. It’s unfortunate for her, unfortunate for our team because I think she brings great talent, size and competitiveness to the court. We will be there to support her throughout her rehab, and we look forward to getting her on the court in the future.”
The injury relates back to an injury Suárez suffered at the end of her freshman season and sidelined her for the NCAA Tournament.
The Oviedo, Spain native had surgery on the foot at the beginning of the offseason, but it just didn’t heal properly, forcing Suárez to have another surgery.
“It just didn’t heal properly,” Suárez said. “I needed to have surgery again. I’d rather do it now and get it over with and be back soon. That’s given me an opportunity to have a different role for the team. I think it’s good. We may need someone off the court keeping people accountable and having their backs. I think, even though it wasn’t great news and I was feeling bad for a few days, it’s a good opportunity for me to keep going as a teammate.”
As a freshman, the 6-foot-2 wing played 16 minutes a game, averaging 4.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
The Spain native was in the Lady Vols’ rotation as a freshman and was set to see her role increase as a sophomore. Now, Suárez is sidelined for the entirety of her sophomore season.
Still, Suárez believes she can have a major role on this Tennessee team— just from the sideline.
“It was frustrating,” Suárez said of her offseason. “For a while I was doing good and I was doing all the stuff I need to do … There was just a small chance this could happen but of course you never think about it and I did not expect the news at all. It was really devastating at the beginning.”
Without Suárez, Tennessee will look for a handful of players to step up on a veteran team. Newcomers Sara Puckett and Alexus Dye are candidates to earn that playing time.
Dye is a grad transfer forward from Troy who brings athleticism and defense immediately to Tennessee. Puckett is one of the most talented freshmen in the Lady Vols’ strong freshmen class.
“Based on how our young players have performed this summer and this fall, Sara Puckett has really stood out with her ability to put the ball in the hole, pass, dribble and rebound,” Harper said. “She’s very intelligent. She has a great skill-set with great size.”
Tennessee opens its 2021-22 season Nov. 10 against Southern Illinois.