Ashley is a 16-year-old sophomore from Ohio who loves to write -- anything from lyrics to poetry -- sing in the choir, play softball, and watch The West Wing. Her three role models are Ruthie Bolton, actress Allison Janney (CJ Cregg on The West Wing), and her English teacher. She is also the copy editor for her school newspaper.
Here is Ashley's analysis on each of this year's playoff teams:
New York Liberty
The Liberty, they have had a fabulous year so far. Teresa Weatherspoon rarely ever has a great offensive night, but never count her out on defense. If you can wear her out that's the best thing you can do. Tari Phillips down low is one of the best centers in the league and is rough, doesn't give up, and will fight you to the end. Get a big player to guard her; you can't deny all her shots, but you can contest them. Don't let Vickie Johnson take over the game. Guard her and Crystal Robinson as well as you can. Becky Hammon will come out shooting up three's, so don't let the Liberty set up an open shot for her. Deny them on that, and you should be able to beat them.
The Charlotte Sting, what can you say? I really love this team. Staley and Stinson turned the team around last year. Now it seems that everyone is stepping up. With Anne Donovan as coach that is a plus. Charlotte Smith, Allison Feaster, and Tonya Edwards have emerged into wonderful athletes. Now to beat them, really guard them on their perimeters. Andrea Stinson is probably the best one-on-one player; she's powerful and strong and very hard to stop. Staley always does her job as guard though, I wouldn't worry about her too much offensively. But if she looks like she's getting hot then you really have to get on her. But keep your eyes on Smith and Feaster, and let's not forget about Tammy Sutton Brown, she's my favorite player on the team, deservedly so. Just guard her as well as you can, and you may be able to pull one off.
The Mystics may have won their last couple games but teams can catch them off guard. Chamique Holdsclaw, though deserving of the MVP award, can be stopped. Stacey Dales-Schuman can as well. They let their emotions get to them I think, which is something they will have to learn to get past. Vicky Bullet and Asjha Jones have stepped up when others have been off which is good. But to stop them, teams need to play nearly at their best.
Let me start off by saying how proud I am of them. They have their first playoff berth in franchise history. Stopping this team is hard when they are at their best, which they are right now. You can't stop Tamika Catchings at either end of the court to be honest. You can stop Nikki McCray but only for so long. Get Olympia Scott Richardson into some foul trouble, which she seems to always be getting into. Kelly Schumacher usually comes out for her. She's big and powerful; you just have to defend her well and you should have no problem. With the addition of Coquese Washington, they are very strong. You may be able to take their offense away but one thing you can never take away is their leadership. And Washington has brought that. With the other players, just guard them the best that you can. Deny them on both ends of the floor, and you should have a W for the night.
Los Angeles Sparks
I cannot call myself a Sparks fan. But I have to respect them despite how I feel about them. Lisa Leslie is one of the best all around centers in the league. When you have a center that can shoot three's, can dunk, and is unstoppable inside, on the boards and the offense, you are a blessed team. Even though I believe she's overrated, she's still one of the best. LA has a great point guard, and a nice emerging rookie. With the power of DeLisha Milton and Latasha Byears, the team is hard to stop. But that doesn't mean they can't be. You have to get into their heads and make them feel like they don't have any open shots available. Every team needs to stop putting three and four players on Lisa; once you do that she'll pass out to Teasley or Dixon who is already spotting up for the three. Then you are trying to run back out there and guard it, but it's too late then. To beat LA, get them into foul trouble, have great tenacious defense, and most of all, keep your scoring up. Once you do that you have a great chance.
The Houston Comets are still not the same four time champions we all grew to love. And though we do still love them they have their weaknesses this year. To me, the only consistent scorers are Tina Thompson and Sheryl Swoopes. Janeth Arcain has been on and off this year, and behind her is Vickie Johnson. You have to give the Comets a fight every time you play them. The Terrible Two will score up into the 20's each when they have to. But never take your eyes off of them because they will run it down to the wire, and that's one of the best ways they blow you out. For those that have to guard Tina or Sheryl, you must stay on them at all times. If Sheryl sees an opening she will go for it; all you can do is defend it, and hope she has an off night. Last but not least, do what the Monarchs did in their game on August 10: Catch Houston on its down slides in the game. When they’re not at their best, take over the game as much as you can. They will come back, but sometimes it's just too late. Do that and you can beat the best.
I have liked this team from the start. They have Jennifer Azzi, one of the best guards in the league and in the world. She isn't always there on the offensive end but she's aggressive and powerful to say the least. With a team that consists of Natalie Williams, Marie Ferdinand, Margo Dydek, and Adrienne Goodson, you are bound to have success. Their coach Candy Harvey gives them the confidence that they never had before with Coach Williams. To beat he Starzz, get Margo into foul trouble as you would almost any center. When you give some players a lot of defense it makes them uncomfortable. However, for players like Goodson, Williams, and Ferdinand, they live for defense and they play at their best with it. You must deny them and have a nice game offensively and you can beat them.
I can't call myself a huge Bird or Storm fan. But I love what she and Jackson have done with the team. I don't give Lin Dunn a lot of the credit, because no matter what kind of coach you are when you have players like Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, well let's just say it helps. I applaud the Storm on how far they have come. I don't beating them is necessarily hard. Just give Lauren Jackson all the defense you can throw at her. If you keep her from going inside that's how you stop her, because that's what she shoots. I don't know if you can fully stop Sue Bird, but you can tone it down a little with her offense. Once you hold those players you have got the win. Lin has just made way too many out-of-this-world trades for them to have a great chance in the playoffs.