The CSU women’s basketball team won’t be looking to get a break at any point during their schedule, which is loaded with upstart programs and post-season participants.
Not including the preseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament, the Rams have 10 teams on the 2002-03 slate that advanced to postseason play a year ago.
Eight of those (Stephen F. Austin, Colorado, Notre Dame, UC Santa Barbara, Boston College, BYU, New Mexico and UNLV) made the NCAA Tournament, while Michigan and St. Mary’s were in the post-season WNIT.
Fifteen other teams will play in the preseason WNIT – all possible Ram opponents – and 12 of those also advanced to the postseason. Six played in the NCAA Tournament (Kansas State, North Carolina, Penn State, Bucknell, Syracuse and Mississippi State) and six played in the WNIT (Ball State, Georgia Tech, San Francisco, Southern California, Siena and Southwest Missouri State).
“One specific road stretch that sticks out is at Big-12 Colorado, at Big-10 Michigan and at Big East Notre Dame — back to back to back with power conference teams on the road,” head coach Chris Denker said. “I’m hoping the road schedule won’t take too much out of us and make us exhausted for the start of conference.”
The CSU women’s basketball team will take part in the preseason WNIT for the second time in school history.
The Rams were selected to host the first round and will face the University of San Francisco Lady Dons. The Rams carry a perfect all-time mark (4-0) in the tournament into the contest and are 7-1 overall in WNIT Tournaments.
The last time the Rams were in the preseason WNIT, they won the championship, defeating Rutgers 71-60 to begin the 1998-99 season, which went on to be the most successful in school history.
The Rams lost only one player to graduation, first-team All-Mountain West performer Angie Gorton, and return 10 letter winners as well as two redshirts from last year’s 24-7 squad.
CSU’s senior class is six deep, including the return of point guard Elizabeth English, who is coming back from a torn knee ligament which forced her to miss all but eight games of last season.
Four starters return and they make up the bulk of CSU’s stats from a year ago. The four accounted for 80.8 percent of the Rams’ scoring and 83.1 percent of the 2001-2002 team’s rebounding.
“It’s really great from a perspective of they have game and playing experience, but they also have zero experience playing for us (the new coaching staff),” said Denker, the first-year CSU coach. “In terms of learning stuff, they’re no different than a freshman.”
In addition to their veteran core, CSU has four newcomers on board for the 2002-03 campaign: true freshmen Melissa Dennett, Lindsay Thomas and Val Willhoit, as well as University of Portland transfer Da’Love Woods.
Dennett, a 6-2 forward from Salt Lake City, is currently playing volleyball for CSU.
The 6-3 Thomas comes to CSU from Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls, S.D. where her team holds a 109-game winning streak.
Willhoit was named the Colorado 5A Player of the Year last year while at Doherty High School in Colorado Springs. The 6-0 guard will compete for time in the Rams’ backcourt.
Woods was an All-West Coast Conference Performer with Portland, averaging 14.5 points per game and totaling 124 assists.
“We’re very excited to have a talented influx of young talent to go along with our veterans,” Denker said. “We have two redshirt freshmen, Vanessa Espinoza and Msur Tor-Agbinye, who are very experienced and should help us out.”