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Sophomore guard Maya Caldwell (11) attempts to make a basket during a game against Alabama at Stegeman Coliseum on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. Alabama defeated Georgia with a score of 58-53. (Photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

In the past five games, the Georgia women’s basketball team is 3-2 and has gotten back to the play style and identity which led it to success last season.

One player who has cemented her place in the starting lineup during that stretch is sophomore forward Maya Caldwell. While being placed back in the starting role, she has averaged nine points per game.

“What I think is good about Maya is she can stretch the defense a little bit,” associate head coach Karen Lange said. “She hasn’t shot the ball as well as she is capable of shooting it, but you always think the ball is going in when she shoots it.”

For Caldwell, it isn’t her first time being in the starting five, as she started the first four games of the season. She averaged 2.5 points per game during that stretch.

Lange mentioned Caldwell had the tendency to switch off defensively and lose focus on her assignment. That was a huge factor on why she was removed from the starting lineup initially.

The Bulldogs’ identity on defense is to force turnovers and hit opponents on the fast break. However, that requires each player to move and rotate. When Caldwell was removed from the starting five, she didn’t need an explanation from head coach Joni Taylor.

“I knew that I wasn’t where I’m supposed to be, where [Taylor] expected me to be and where she wanted me to be, and I had to pick it up,” Caldwell said.

Throughout the season, Caldwell has switched between the three and four spots in the lineup. The coaches like the flexibility Caldwell has, but the same flexibility she possesses was her downfall at the beginning of the season. Recently, she has stayed at the four, which has helped her learn the defensive assignments.

“She’s just been playing so hard,’ Lange said. “I think consistently in practice, her effort and pace has (sic) been really good. Her awareness defensively has gotten better, and I think that’s why you’ve seen her stay in that starting line up.”

Caldwell also noticed her intensity in practice wasn’t consistent at the beginning of the season. Taja Cole noticed how much Caldwell’s work ethic has improved from December.

While she was out of the lineup and struggling for minutes, Caldwell was there to cheer on her teammates on the bench.

“I think that’s the best thing about Maya is her personality and just her perseverance through everything,” Lange said. “Her outlook on life is great, it’s super positive. She’s been nothing but a great teammate through all of this.”

Georgia needs to win its remaining five games to stay in contention for the NCAA tournament. In order to accomplish that goal, the Bulldogs will need Caldwell to perform at her best.

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