LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The 2003-04 basketball season was filled with thrilling victories and falling records as the Legerski era began. In his sophomore season at Wyoming, head coach Joe Legerski and the Cowgirl team will look to improve on some of those accomplishments for the upcoming 2004-05 season.
"In entering my second season at Wyoming, I'm coming in with the same goals that I have every season: improve daily," said Legerski."Reflecting back on last year's team we were able to improve daily and good things happened to our team. We defeated Colorado State in the Mountain West Conference Tournament for the first tournament win in fourteen years for a Cowgirl basketball team, and had the highest conference finish in the last seven years of the program. The improvement of the Wyoming basketball program is a journey not a quick fix. We are striving to bring our program to one of competitiveness as quickly as possible and establish ourselves with the elite teams in this league."
Despite the return of three starters and ten letterwinners, the squad is still quite young and inexperienced. Six of those ten returning letterwinners saw significant time last season, which includes seniors Ashley Elliott, Sara Hippen and Kristen Lenhardt.
"Our senior class will be the heart of this team, as they perform so will our team," Legerski said. "We expect Sara, Kristen and Ashley to provide the leadership that this young team will need."
The Cowgirl squad will comprise of three seniors, three juniors, five sophomores and six freshmen. One of those seniors who will be looked upon to provide leadership, along with her scoring power is Ashley Elliott. A First Team All-Conference selection in 2003-04, she returns after averaging a team leading 16.9 points and chipping in 4.9 boards. She also finished second in assists and steals with 3.2 and 1.6 respectively. The senior also looks to move up in the Wyoming record book in several categories.
"Ashley led our team in scoring and was our go to player on the offensive end of the court a year ago," said Legerski. "Besides her uncanny ability to shoot the basketball, she was asked to defend the best perimeter player our opponent placed on the court. She has the unique ability to make players around her better. Her tireless work ethic and desire to become better makes her a great role model for our younger players."
A couple of other individuals who will play an important role on this team will be seniors Kristen Lenhardt and Sara Hippen, along with sophomore Tarah Lapar. Lenhardt finished her junior campaign averaging 8.1 points and four rebounds, which earned her MWC All-Tournament Team honors. Hippen played in 28 games and averaged four points and 3.5 rebounds, while LaPar wrapped up her freshman season averaging 4.4 points and 2.4 boards.
"The progress of Kristen is a tribute to a young person finding the positives in every day," he added. "She excelled in our program due to her willingness to accept change and compete through the difficult times. The move to power forward from small forward will help Kristen this season and the experience gained in big games will prove to be invaluable for this team.
"Sara made great strides throughout the season and we look forward to Sara having her best year as a Cowgirl. She can stretch the defense with her ability to shoot and adds experience to our front court.
"Tarah Lapar is the only underclassmen to receive significant minutes last season as a small forward. She can put points on the board in a hurry. "
Other letterwinners who will try to make their presence known this season will be juniors Lorissa Ewing and Michelle Taylor, along with sophomores Ali Camp, Annie Gorenstein, Angiah Harris, Lindsy Schmidt.
"An inexperienced group best describes our returning underclassmen," said Legerski. "Lorissa Ewing, Ali Camp and Annie Gorenstein saw limited amount of playing time in a backup role last season. All three will have an opportunity to step up and claim the minutes available at the center spot. Michelle Taylor and Lindsy Schmidt round out the returning perimeter players and both have a tremendous desire to improve, while Angiah Harris is looking to bounce back from a frustrating season of injuries."
The Cowgirls welcome six newcomers to this year's team, which include one junior college transfer and five freshmen. They include Amy Bolerjack (Columbia, Mo.), Jodi Bolerjack (Columbia, Mo.), Mary Brown (Thermopolis, Wyo.), Erin Hicks (Mountain Home, Idaho), Dominique Sisk (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Hanna Zavecz (Melbourne, Australia).
"The coaching staff is pleased with the quality of players in our first recruiting class, and feel they will go a long way in establishing Wyoming as a legitimate program in the Mountain West."
The fans will also be seeing double this season as twin sisters Amy and Jodi Bolerjack join the program. Amy was a two-time All-State and All-District selection as a junior and senior, while Jodi earned the same honors during her sophomore and senior seasons. They also helped their team to a 32-2 overall record and the State runner-up spot in 2003-04.
"The latest twins, Amy and Jodi Bolerjack, to sign with Wyoming have won at every level. They led their team to a national championship at the summer AAU tournament. Jodi was selected as the MVP of the tournament with Amy being an All-Tournament selection. They may be the two best shooters on the team and that is saying a great deal when you have Ashley."
Erin Hicks comes to Wyoming after a two-year career at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo. She was a First Team All-Conference and All-Region IX selection after averaging 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds as a sophomore.
"Erin will fill the void left by senior Brenda Pickup at the point guard position. She has tremendous court vision and brings a wealth of playing experience and leadership."
The other two newcomers are Dominique Sisk and Hanna Zavecz. Sisk earned All-State and All-Conference honors while helping her team to a Metro League Conference title in 2003-04, while Zavecz was a stand-out at the Australian Institute of Sport Academy.
"Dominique may be the sleeper of the group. She has the ability to play a number of perimeter positions and can break a defender down off the dribble. Hanna is a big guard with the ability to score from the perimeter as well as in the post. Her experience of playing against elite competition and training at the Australian Institute of Sport moves her to the top of the class, as she makes players around her better."
In 2004-05, Wyoming will bechallenged early and often with a tough non-conference schedule against such perennial teams as Colorado, Denver, Big 12 Champion Kansas State, Montana and Northern Iowa.
"This season's basketball schedule will be a challenge for the Cowgirl team," said Legerski. "We start the season on the road against the Big 12 Conference Champion, Kansas State, but after a difficult opener, we play six of the next seven games in the friendly confines of the Double A. We need to get off to an excellent start at home since the following month of basketball will be played on the road. We begin Mountain West Conference play on the road against BYU and Utah, a road swing that has been difficult for the Cowgirl program. In fact, five or our first seven conference games will be on the road, a difficult task for a team trying to grow within the conference."
There will also be fierce competition as the Mountain West Conference enters its sixth season of existence, where the Cowgirls will face such power houses as Brigham Young, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Utah. In all, the Cowgirls 2004-05 schedule includes seven teams that participated in either the NCAA Tournament or WNIT (Colorado, Colorado State, Idaho State, Kansas State, Montana, New Mexico and UNLV). Two of the seven teams also finished the season ranked in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
"The Mountain West Conference has established itself as a major player in women's basketball," he added. "The 2005 season will continue the excellent quality of play and a conference championship may be determined on the last weekend of the season. The number of returning stars is greater than ever. All ten players selected to the All-Conference first and second teams, as well as the Player of the Year, return to lead their respective teams. New Mexico and UNLV return veteran squads and would receive the early vote as the teams to beat. Utah can never be counted out with their tradition of winning championships. BYU and Colorado State return their core players and will challenge for the top half of the league. San Diego State and Air Force are a year older and will continue to surprise some teams."
The Mountain West Conference Basketball Tournament venue will continue to be in Denver, Colorado and the Pepsi Center. Each team in the conference will qualify for the single-elimination tournament, which begins on Wednesday, March 9, 2004 and runs through Saturday, March 12, 2004.