The Virginia and North Carolina women's basketball teams met tonight in University Hall, each team without its best player, and the Cavaliers ended up with a surprisingly easy 87-68 victory over the No. 9 Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels were playing without suspended point guard Nikki Teasley. The Cavaliers were without shooting guard Erin Stovall, who took a leave of absence from the team three weeks ago. Both were preseason all-Atlantic Coast Conference selections.
The win was the Cavaliers' sixth straight since Stovall, their leading scorer, left before a Dec. 20 game against Virginia Tech.
Stovall met with Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan on Wednesday and asked to rejoin the Cavaliers. Ryan, who said Stovall's departure was because of unhappiness with the team, declined Stovall's request, and said tonight that her decision would benefit both the team and Stovall.
"Right now, it's in the team's best interest," Ryan said. "I had to make a hard decision, and I decided this is what's best for the team. I honestly feel this is what is best for Erin. I did not close the door. We will revisit this in the spring, if she wants to return."
Stovall, who was at the game, said it was unlikely she would wear a Virginia uniform again. She married former Virginia defensive tackle Antonio Dingle, now with the Carolina Panthers, Jan. 1 in Fayetteville, N.C., and said they intend to live in Charlottesville.
A junior, Stovall said she is enrolled in classes for the spring semester and intends to finish her degree during the summer 2000 session. She has not considered transferring to a different school yet, but has not ruled out the possibility.
Forward Svetlana Volnaya and guard Renee Robinson said after the game the team supported Ryan's decision, though it harbored no ill will toward Stovall, who had averaged 13.8 points.
Teasley, who won several national player of the year awards during her senior year at St. John's at Prospect Hall in 1997, was suspended by Coach Sylvia Hatchell for undisclosed reasons before the team's trip to Charlottesville. The Virginia players and coaching staff did not know of Teasley's suspension until pregame warmups.
"Nikki has been suspended for this game," Hatchell said. "That is all I'm going to say."
When asked, Hatchell declined to say whether Teasley will rejoin the team upon its return to Chapel Hill, or to give a cause for the suspension.
Teasley, who did not travel with the team, has led the ACC in assists the past two seasons and was named a preseason candidate for the Naismith Award for the national player of the year. She had averaged 14 points and 5.8 assists through 12 games.
Box score on Page D10