The Lady Anteaters are ready to take the Big West Conference by storm. Although ranked ninth in a preseason Big West media poll, the ladies are ready to show their talent on the court and prove all their doubters wrong. The ’Eaters are looking to gain experience from a tough non-conference schedule which includes San Diego State, Fresno State, South Florida and Gonzaga.
The Ladies are returning All-Big West honorable mention Rebecca Maessen, who led the Anteaters with 12.7 points per game last year, as well as senior guards Ka’Jahna and Keyonna Johnson, who provide quickness on both ends of the floor. In the front court, junior center Kim Barnes returns averaging 5.2 rebounds per game and ranked fifth in conference last year with 1.1 blocks per game.
One of the biggest additions to this year’s roster is junior transfer Jade Smith-Williams. She sat out last year after coming from Chico State, where she played for Head Coach Molly Goodenbour, averaging 9.8 points per game and leading the team in assists (3.6) and steals (1.8) per game.
Some more key additions to the roster are from this year’s incoming freshman class. Coach Goodenbour’s first recruiting class includes McDonald’s All-American Lauren Spinazze, as well as high school standouts Cheyenne Cathey, Jazmyne White and Tiana Henriks.
Coach Molly Goodenbour is entering her second season as head coach for the Lady Anteaters. She hopes to use her experience, which includes California Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year, and a member of two national championship teams while playing at Stanford University, to the team’s advantage. Coach Goodenbour hopes to improve on last year’s seventh place finish in Big West standings.
“We are looking to push the ball up [the court] and play scrappy defense,” Goodenbour commented. “We want teams to remember us when we play.”
In an exhibition game against Concordia on Nov. 5, the ladies pulled out a close win with a 57-54 final score. The Lady Anteaters came out with two quick steals resulting in fast break lay-ups setting the tempo of the game. Smith-Williams’ slashing drives combined with Keyonna Johnson’s scorching speed to the basket allowed the Anteaters to finish with a plethora of two point lay-ups. The Ladies finished the first half with a commanding 37-25 lead at halftime.
“We were looking to run and make it an up-tempo game,” said Smith-Williams. “We have six or seven new players so we were working on cohesiveness and learning to play together.”
In the second half of the exhibition, the ladies were slowed down by an extended 2-3 zone defense, stopping the attack of the Anteaters offense. With 15 minutes left in the half, the Eagles were able to cut the Eater’s lead in half on an 8-0 run, 43-35. The Lady Anteaters were eventually able to attack the zone which led to successful attempts to the basket and free throw tries. The ladies were able to finish 10-15 from the charity stripe which helped them close out the end of the game. They were also able to create 31 turnovers and 15 steals leading to easy baskets and points off transition.
“We hadn’t faced a zone but we just need to practice against it,” Coach Goodenbour said. “More reps will help us if we see it again.”
Smith-Williams led the Lady Anteaters with a game-high 17 points, followed by Johnson’s 14 points. Freshman Cheyenne Cathey, Lauren Spinazze and Jazmyne White played impressively well for their first collegiate games. White had a team high eight rebounds, Spinazze contributed seven rebounds and four steals, while Cathey contributed a key interception late in the game to change the momentum of the game.
“The freshmen were able to get experience and get used to the speed of collegiate basketball,” Goodenbour said of her young players. “When we get to conference play, the experience will be important. Overall, I was pleased with our play.”
The Lady Anteaters played a fast and entertaining style of basketball, which any basketball fan can appreciate.
“We play up and down basketball and we feed off of our defense,” commented Smith-Williams. “We will bring intensity to every game we play this season.”
The Lady Anteaters will be exciting to watch this year. The women begin their season Nov. 13 against San Diego State, 5 p.m. at the Bren Events Center.