With Kitley’s Status Up In The Air, Virginia Tech’s Future Is Cloudy

The future is cloudy for Virginia Tech and Kenny Brooks with Elizabeth Kitley’s status up in the air. (Ivan Morozov)

Virginia Tech heads to the ACC Tournament in Greensboro with a cloudy future after Elizabeth Kitley left Sunday’s game at Virginia with an injury. Her departure overshadowed the Hokies’ 80-75 loss in Charlottesville, their second straight.

Tech head coach Kenny Brooks didn’t have an update on his star after the defeat, nor less than 24 hours later on Monday’s media call.

“We don’t know anything yet,” Brooks said. “We’re just waiting and praying for good results.”

Tech, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, faces the winner of No. 8 seed North Carolina and No. 9 seed Miami on Friday at 1:30 p.m. ET. It swept all three meetings against those two sides this year, including a 74-62 win over the Tar Heels on senior day with ESPN’s College GameDay in attendance on Feb. 25.

The Hokies might have to do it without Kitley this time around, though. She’s only missed one game over the last two seasons out of precaution, a home win against Virginia on Jan. 5, 2023.

Two years ago, she was injured against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament — a game Tech won behind Georgia Amoore’s heroics — and missed the following game against NC State, but she bounced back with a 42-point performance in the NCAA Tournament against Florida Gulf Coast.

The vibes are different now, however. The injury felt very severe when it happened, and Brooks got choked up talking about her health after the game.

It was an emotional ending to Sunday’s game at Virginia for the Hokies. (Ivan Morozov)

Yet, Brooks emphasized the importance of the Hokies sticking together. Whether or not Kitley is available, they’ve got a target on their backs because of their accomplishments over the last two campaigns. If she can’t go, others are going to have to try to fill that void.

“If that is the case, it has to be next person up because the games will still go on,” Brooks said. “We’re still going to have the benefits of a great season so we’re going to be able to continue it on.

“We can sit here, and if the case is she’s not going to be able to play, we can feel sorry for ourselves and we can get our butts beat, or we can go out there and continue to play and fight like they did last night.”

Tech played the final 15 minutes of the game in John Paul Jones Arena without Kitley and scored 34 of its 75 points (45%) in that stretch. Most of that was from Amoore, who put the team on her back. The All-American made eight of her 15 shots and scored 23 of her career-high 39 points during that span. Clara Strack chipped in six while Cayla King hit a 3-pointer and Carleigh Wenzel added a layup.

Previously, the spotlight was on Tech’s two-woman game with Amoore and Kitley. Just like when Amoore suffered a head injury in January at Duke, the other pieces became more critical than ever. If Kitley can’t go, it’ll be a similar situation.

How Tech handles the noise around her injury is another deal. As the days go by, more questions will be asked — nationally, not just around Virginia Tech — about Kitley’s status, and things could become clearer on Friday when the Hokies play in Greensboro.

Whether Brooks meant to or not, he was blunt in his answers surrounding her status. But the NCAA Tournament committee and others may try to pick things apart with a microscope to figure out if she’s really going to have a chance to play in the Big Dance.

How do Georgia Amoore, Cayla King and Virginia Tech fare in the ACC Tournament? (Ivan Morozov)

Tech’s been quiet about injuries in the past — just look at Amoore’s knock earlier in the year — but this is sort of like walking a tightrope. In this case, if Kitley’s unavailable, the Hokies don’t want that to hurt their chances to host an NCAA regional or throw them under the bus in terms of seeding. Obviously, they’re not the same team without her.

Notre Dame gave a little bit of a blueprint of what the dialogue around an injury to a star this late in the year can look like. 

All-American Olivia Miles went down in the final game of the 2022-23 regular season and the Irish played everything close to the vest while saying they thought she’d return for the NCAA Tournament. They still hosted as a No. 3 seed, and the day before they played Southern Utah in the first round, they announced she was done for the season. A year later, she’s still not returned to the floor.

Just ask Jordan Travis and Florida State football how much injuries are taken into account by the organizing committees. Virginia Tech men’s basketball fans might also remember how after missing a month-and-a-half in 2018-19, Justin Robinson announced he was cleared for the NCAA Tournament the morning of Selection Sunday, which helped the Hokies’ seeding.

In some cases, the less said about a similar situation might lead some to believe that it’s extremely severe, and while that could very well be true, Tech and Brooks have to balance their positioning for March at the same time, a tall and emotional task. 

15 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. We love our seniors, Liz, Cayla, Liv and Georga; hope G returns. Our team is built on Grace, humility and sportsmanship not aparent in most teams. I also had tears watching Liz on bench. Today I prayed for healing to see her in the tourneys.

  2. I was there, and it was an extremely tight game. When Liz went down, it got really quiet, and everyone stood up to see how she was doing. When she walked back into the locker room, I kept looking for that maroon jersey number 33 to enter the arena And help us win the game. I know she wanted to, and if she had been healthy, she would have just think of all the rebounds that UVA would not have gotten after their missed foul shots. It seems to me that Coach Brooks is developing some of the greatest people as student athletes .

  3. Given that there was a chance that it could be a serious injury, I don’t know why she came back out on the floor with no brace or assistance (crutch, walking boot). Just out of caution. That led me to believe that it was not that serious. But, if someone else has an alternative thought, I’d be interested. I did not see signs of pain on her face while she was walking. I thought her tears were probably that she couldn’t help the team win her last game against an archrival. And she knows there is not much room for error if you want to be a 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Could well have been that she wanted to go back in but wasn’t allowed to.

    1. I have had friends who have had torn ACL tell me that it doesn’t slow them down a whole lot as far as walking. That tearing it results in more of a stability issue that of course comes in to play in the sport like basketball. But I still think there would’ve been more swelling and you would think they would’ve put ice on it.

  4. The bruising on her knee looked bad. I hope it was a good sign that there was not an ice pack on her (surprised because of the bruising) and no crutches used. My fear is a patella tendon injury.

  5. There are 3 possible scenarios: Kitley plays, Kitley plays sparingly, or Kitley doesn’t play. The 2nd scenario I just don’t see happening because KB is so tight with her family and her he won’t let her risk her career to play in the ACCT. Personally, I think she doesn’t play in the ACCT, which is consistent with what happened 2 years ago. The NCAA T is more important than the ACCT.

    So, then we enter into what will likely be the greatest and biggest challenge falling on CKB and staff. He has been singing Clara’s praises for a while now and I have marveled on how well improved she has played. But, being thrust into the role of being THE inside player the last 15 minutes of the UVA game she was not all that comfortable. We missed Liz the most when UVA was getting all those offensive rebounds. Realistically, she is a freshman, and she isn’t used to playing that many minutes. She played really hard and really well I thought.

    IMHO, CKB has already made up his mind about the ACCT. Let’s face it, if Liz can play she surely cannot practice very much this week. This all boils down to CKB coming up with a workable solution, offensively, for the team, and defensively, to keep Clara in the game because you know the opponents are going to go after her to get her in foul trouble. The rest of the players have to step up and that means #10 (Baker) who has shot some clutch 3’s this year but couldn’t even hit the rim on the shots I saw Sunday night. It means Matilda has to show up and be a threat from the outside (0 points Sunday). It means Summiel has to be the rebounder she is but also has to get a lot of minutes and stay out of foul trouble. It is really up to CKB and staff to make this work.

    Hokie Nation is behind this team now more than ever before.

    1. I agree. I think unless she’s fully healthy she sits during the acct. gives her more time to heal and allows the team to play more (at least one game) without her to see what they can put together.

      I’m crossing my fingers for Liz. Having coached girls soccer and basketball I’m familiar with several season ending knee injuries. Whether it’s your team or the opponent it always sucks. Because you know how hard those girls worked and then an acl injury ends a season or even a career. We are pulling for you Liz.

  6. Pick our heads up as fans who love this team and give them more support than ever .
    Go Hokies

  7. Certainly praying for Liz! She exemplifies grace and humility. I don’t understand why we as a 1 seed are playing a team that will have only played one game (the winner of UNC and Miami) when the other top seeds potentially could be playing a team who would be playing their third game. Seems an advantage to the other top seeds?

    1. Because we get to play the 8/9 seed. While others might get a team playing their third game but more likely playing a 5, 6 or 7.

    2. They’re not LIKELY playing a team that could’ve already played 2; it’s likely that 5,6,7 beats 12,11,10

    3. They need to reseed after every rd, but they don’t because of the times of games..they don’t want a team potentially playing the late gm then the early gm. The predetermined slotted times to help fans know what time they play in advance is the motivator too.

  8. Praying for Liz and the rest of our young ladies. Hope Liz is OK but CKB’s press conference makes me feel like she’s not.

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