Chemistry: itâ€™s something teams in any sport desperately want, and with the departure of three seniors at the end of last season, itâ€™s a quality that the Rams will strive to have in the 2011 season.
â€œWe have extremely good chemistry. It even showed in those (exhibition) games,â€ sophomore forward Sam Martin said. â€œWe still have a lot of things we can get together and get better at, but itâ€™s a great start just because we get along so well.â€
Part of the reason CSU has found this chemistry even before the season has started is because two of their top performers from 2010-11 are returning this season.
Both Kim Mestdagh and Martin received all-conference recognition from the Mountain West, and they will try to lead the Rams to an NCAA Tournament berth with a roster on which nine out of 13 players are underclassmen.
Development of the younger underclassmen on the roster will help CSU not only this year, but in the years to come.
â€œI think theyâ€™re getting better every day, and certainly their development will add to hopefully what weâ€™re doing,â€ coach Kristen Holt said. â€œThe more depth you have, then the more parts you can put into place. Thatâ€™s just going to make you that much better.â€
While the younger players keep developing, the older ones have some lofty goals for this season.
Last yearâ€™s team finished the season with a 14-15 regular season record, 7-9 in the MW before losing in the MW tournament to the Air Force Academy.
This yearâ€™s squad plans on finishing in a much better position.
â€œWe want to win the Mountain West championship,â€ senior Kelly Hartig said. â€œWe want to get to the NCAA Tournament. I went twice with Virginia, and itâ€™s an awesome experience. And Iâ€™d really like to get back there my last year.â€
The road to the NCAA Tournament will be one that is full of tests for the Rams, with the first one coming Saturday night at Northern Iowa.
â€œI think (a win would) prove to our community and the school what we can do,â€ Martin said. â€œIt would be great for our program.â€
Northern Iowa finished last season 27-6 (12-2 at home) and made the NCAA Tournament, falling in the first round to Michigan State.
The game kicks off a schedule for CSU that is packed with tough non-conference opponents that include Arizona State, the Unversity of Colorado and Michigan State.
Holt specifically scheduled difficult out-of-conference road opponents this season in order to challenge her team to play up the level of some established programs.
â€œYou just want to put them through as many challenges as you can, and certainly being on the road against good teams is one of them,â€ she said. â€œWe have some teams there that, if we can beat them, thatâ€™s really going to help our RPI.â€
Womenâ€™s Basketball Beat Reporter Andrew Schaller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Rams season opener
Who: CSU vs. Northern Iowa
When: Tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Cedar Falls, Iowa