Nov. 19, 2001
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
After an injury plagued 2000-01 season, there is much excitement andanticipation as the upcoming Wyoming Cowgirl basketball seasonapproaches. There are several familiar faces, along with new additionsto this year's Cowgirl team, as head coach Cindy Fisher begins herfourth season at the helm.
Fisher welcomes back eight letterwinners and five starters, along withseveral newcomers to the squad. Six of the eight returningletterwinners played in 26 games or more during last season, includingall 28 by sophomore Brenda Pickup. With all of the returning veteranplayers and the addition of the newcomers, Wyoming will look to improveon a 11-17 overall record and a 3-11 conference mark.
"Our expectations for this season as a whole are very high," saidFisher. "I feel like we have the talent and maturity in the upperclassto be able to take this group to another level and really start to climbto the top of the Mountain West. I think our conference, in general isvery strong, and the teams at the top will continue to do so. Overall,we expect to do well and finish towards the top of the conference and bytournament time be in a position to fight for a victory."
The 2001-02 squad will be made up of one senior, seven juniors, twosophomores, and seven freshmen. With a couple of seasons and recruitingclasses under her belt, Fisher feels confident about her team.
"We're taking it one day at a time and our expectations are very high,but we need to work in all the tools necessary for it to happen," Fisheradded. "With transfers Chassie and Cherrith Wiersma, along with CarrieBacon and Carly Stucky coming back from injuries and throwing in fivenewcomers, there will be some growing pains and adjustments, but youhave to work those things out in order to be successful. All of ourreturning players have put in a great deal of hard work this pastoff-season and are committed to turning this program around."
The Cowgirls only senior Christy Bacon, who started in every game lastseason, returns as the expected leader. She finished last year averaging7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds respectively.
"Christy has shown great leadership over the past eight months. Herwork ethic and commitment level has become contageous throughout theteam."
Center Ann McColl also returns this season after a team leading 12points and 6.2 rebounds from a year ago.
"Ann has become very confident in different areas of her game. She canbe explosive and powerful in the low block, but can face up and shootthe jumper with confidence."
Also, returning from injuries and making comebacks are Carly Stuckyand Carrie Bacon. Stucky, before injuring her knee, was averaging a teamleading 12.7 points and 5.7 assists in the first six games of the year.Bacon, who is coming off a redshirt year, averaged 17.7 points and 8.1rebounds as a sophomore.
"Carly is one the best pure shooters in the game. She is capable ofputting up big numbers night in and night out. Carrie's return, from herinjury, has brought back an attitude and excitement everyday topractice. She also gives a new definition to the word competitive, andthe sky is the limit for her."
Pickup came in and replaced injured Carly Stucky six games into theseason and went onto average 6.2 points and a team leading 4.1assists.
"Brenda's confidence, poise and experience has allowed her tobecome a very solid point guard for this program at a young age."
Shaffner played in 26 games, while Arsene finished her sophomorecampaign averaging 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds. McCann contributed 3.4points rebounds in 28 games.
"Heather is a player that does all the intangibles. She has a greatwork ethic and does the most with her abilities, along with being anatural born leader."
"Darci has elevated her game to another level. She has really come intoher own and will be a key player this year. Lisa shows versatility inmany different positions and adds depth to every spot on the floor."
"The biggest strength of this team is their commitment level, workethic and willingness to win. It's also their desire to succeed asindividuals, as well as a group. We will have some depth, which wehaven't had in the past, and that will help us over the long haul of theseason."
"The weakness of this group is probably getting to know each otherbetter on the court. It will be getting everyone out there and knowingthe other individuals tendencies, and I think over time it will cometogether. We also need to start getting stronger and more competitive inthe post. The players we have in those positions need to commit togetting stronger and working hard in order to improve, which will helpus down the road."
In the off season, the Cowgirls brought in five freshmen, along withtwo walk-ons. Chassie and Cherrith Wiersma, who both redshirted lastyear, will also join the mix of veterans.
Chassie, a 5-11 guard from Central Point, Ore., averaged 6.9 pointsand 4.1 rebounds as a sophomore at Oregon State. Her twin sisterCherrith is a 5-9 guard, who also transferred from Oregon State, and wasa two-year starter. Both players sat out last season under NCAA transferrules, and will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Besides the Wiersmas, Wyoming welcomes seven other newcomers to thisyear's team. They include Ashley Elliott (Flagstaff, Ariz.), SaraHippen (La Porte City, Iowa), Kristen Lenhardt (Ft. Collins, Colo.),Kelly McRee (Phoenix, Ariz.), Dafina Tucker (Aurora, Colo.), andwalk-ons Tara Rimsky (Berthoud, Colo.) and Ashley Swalla (Cheyenne,Wyo.).
Guard Ashley Elliott was an All-Region and All-State selection afteraveraging 20 points, five steals and five assists at Sinagua HighSchool. Center Sara Hippen was a four-sport athlete at Union HighSchool, while guard Kelly McRee was named the Regional Player of theYear twice in her career. Newcomer Kristen Lenhardt, originally fromCheyenne, Wyo., was an All-Conference selection at Ft. Collins HighSchool, along with center Dafina Tucker, who averaged 15 points and 11rebounds as a junior. Guard Tara Rimsky was a four-time All-Conferenceand All-State selection while at Berthoud High School, and Ashley Swallaearned All-State honors as a senior.
"Overall, I think this group is farther ahead than I expected them tobe. They have come into this season in good shape and understand what itis going to take in order to win at this level. I feel they're ready tocompete and challenge people for a position and playing time, and that'swhat makes a program better."
This season, Wyoming enters their third season of competition in theMountain West Conference. The Cowgirls will face fierce competitionevery night against several top schools, which include Air Force,Brigham Young, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, Utah and San DiegoState. They will play each of those teams in a home and away series.
Once again, the Cowgirls will face one of the tougher schedules withnon-conference games against such perennial teams as Colorado, Hawai'i,Idaho State, Nevada and Oregon State.
"I think the turning point for this group will be early success on thecourt," explained Fisher. "We start our non-conference season at homeagainst Sacramento State, which should be a good challenge, and then outto Hawai'i against some Top 25 competition. It will take a big win forthis team to know they can compete with big time programs and havesuccess down the road. I look forward to our early road trips, knowingwe will be challenged and see what we are made of."
The conference schedule will see the Cowgirls play some high caliberopponents in Brigham Young, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Utah,all teams that participated in the post-season play last year.
"Obviously, starting the conference season on the road is a challenge.It will be a good test for us to see where we are after a toughnon-conference schedule," added Fisher. "It's going to be a dog-fightevery night in this league, and since I've been here it is really up inthe air which team will rise to the top. Utah and BYU are still verygood, Colorado State and New Mexico are also a teams that will have somesuccess, and then you have San Diego State and UNLV, who also bringathletic teams to the court. Air Force has a new head coach, who wasvery successful at her last school, which should help them win somegames this year. The Mountain West Conference is very exciting andanything can happen, I hope we can finish among the top and be in a goodposition going into the tournament."
The Mountain West Conference Tournament will be held this year in LasVegas, Nev. Each team in the conference will qualify for thesingle-elimination tournament, which begins on Wednesday, March 6, 2001and runs through Saturday, March 9, 2001.