On Saturday morning the women’s basketball team congregated for an early 7:00 a.m. practice at Crawford Gym. After three hours of running through the offense and conditioning, the women gathered around for a well-deserved lunch before participating in some Halloween festivities by bonding over a team pumpkin carving session. If this team wants to succeed, this is something they will have to focus on: becoming a team.
UCI is coming off a 15-15 season that resulted in a 5th place finish in the Big West Conference. The team looked promising in the first half of the season, holding an 11-4 record before dropping 11 of their final 15 games. If the team plans to make noise this year they will have to do so without their top three scorers from last year; Mikah Maly-Karros, Jade Smith-Williams and Tayler Champion.
Coach Molly Goodenbour will have to figure out how to fill the void left by over 50 percent of the offense from last season. Fortunately, Goodenbour will have some extra help this year. New to the bench this year will be assistant coach Doug Oliver, who moved over from the men’s team, where he had coached the previous two seasons.
While the latter part of the season was disappointing, the Anteaters did manage to record double digit wins for the first time since the 02-03 season, and this shows the potential the team really has. They are projected to finish 6th in the Big West this year, but with a few new faces, it is possible for Irvine to muster together a winning season.
The team features several new players including two new starters: point guard Anete Klintsone and forward Pernilla “PJ” Hanson.
Klintsone, a 5-foot-7-inch transfer from Jefferson College in Missouri, will be running the offense. Look for her to set the tempo for the ’Eaters. With an impressive set of skills, Klintsone handles the ball well and shows great in-game awareness, frequently finding teammates out front and initiating fast break points. She will bring leadership and toughness to the team as well.
Hanson, a 5-foot-11-inch forward, sat out all last year following a transfer from Point Loma Nazerene. Look for her to be a big part of the offense this year. With a solid skill set, Hanson is deadly at slashing to the basket and stepping back and firing behind the arc. She has the potential to lead the team in scoring.
In addition, the ’Eaters will have the services of 5-foot-11-inch freshman Methalyn Onomoguho. Look for Onomoguho to come off the bench as an impact player. With a smooth mid-range stroke, Onomoguho gives Goodenbour another weapon to work with.
Rounding off the starters will be the returning ’Eaters: junior forwards Cheyenne Cathey and Jasmyne White and senior captain Kiara Belen.
Also returning for the women include the sharp-shooting Jacquelyn Marshall, who knocked-down a team-high 41 three-pointers last year; point guard Kelly Meggs; senior guard Kassandra McCalister and sophomore forwards Jasmine Bernard and Lauren Spinazze.
The team opened up their season with a 60-35 win over the Cal State Dominguez Hills Toros last Tuesday.
They will face Concordia in a home exhibition game on Wednesday before heading on the road for three consecutive games.