2013-14 women’s basketball preview

(Photo by Bella Torgenson/BYU Photo)

Coming off a very successful 23-11 campaign that saw the Cougars return to postseason play competing for the second straight time in the WNIT and a tie for third in the West Coast Conference, the BYU women’s basketball team is poised to continue and expand on that success in 2013-14.

A very talented, athletic and experienced BYU team is excited to continue its winning tradition, compete for a league championship and have success in postseason play.

“We have a good mixture of experienced and talented players coming back along with some young players that will make us a very good team and fun to watch,” said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. “The fact that we get Jennifer full time this year will really help us and give her that extra time to prepare. Because of our size we are probably going to be a more up-tempo team. One of the keys to our success will be being able to get everyone back healthy after the injuries we had last season.”

The Cougar women return nine letterwinners and two starters that will make them a very tough team to beat. One of those starters is Jennifer Hamson, a 6-foot-7 senior center, who averaged 11.2 points and returns as the leading rebounder grabbing 8.8 boards per game. Hamson also led the team in blocks, recording nearly three blocks per game that placed her ranked 12th nationally in that category at the end of last season. Also back for her final college season is senior guard Kim Beeston. The 5-foot-11 guard averaged 10.5 points and enters the year as the team’s assist leader. She concluded last year ranked 32nd nationally in 3-point field goal percentage.

Among the nine letterwinners are two key players who return to action after suffering season-ending ACL injuries. Sophomore Lexi Eaton, a 5-foot-10 guard had started in all games prior to her injury eight games into the 2012-13 campaign. She had averaged 15.6 points and 4.0 rebounds. Junior Stephanie Rovetti did not play a single game last year injuring her left knee prior to the start of last season. In 2011-12 the 5-foot-6 guard, averaged 2.4 points and 0.9 rebounds per game coming off the bench at the point guard spot.

The bright future for the 2013-14 season is fueled by the return of three juniors who bring a lot of playing experience and depth to the team. Morgan Bailey, a 6-foot-2 junior forward averaged 7.9 ppg and 5.0 rpg. Ashley Garfield, a 5-foot-10 guard, played in all games contributing 4.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest. A 5-foot-11 guard, Xojian Harry, averaged 15 minutes of playing time in all games averaging 3.5 points and 1.5 boards per contest.

Sophomore point guard Kylie Maeda is also back for her second season with the BYU program. She played a vital role in the team’s success her freshman season relieving Cougar standout Haley Steed at the point guard spot. Maeda, a 5-foot-5 guard who suffered an ACL injury late in the 2012-13 campaign missing the last six games of the year, contributed 1.5 points and 1.0 rebounds per game. Another experienced sophomore 5-foot-7 guard Carly Stratton, who played in 11 contests last year, will also provide critical minutes off the bench.

After sitting out a year, three redshirt freshmen are eager and anxious to contribute to the continued success of BYU women’s basketball. Utah standouts Micaelee Orton, a 6-foot-2 forward from Kearns and Kearns High School and Makenzi Morrison, a 5-foot-8 guard from Sandy and Alta High School along with talented Kristine Fuller who hails from Clearwater, Florida and prepped at Palm Harbor University High School, look to show off their athletic abilities and talents on the court.

Vying for playing time this season are three true freshmen who are good scorers, have great athletic talents and were heavily recruited by major basketball programs throughout the country.

Beginning their college careers as Cougars are Cassie Broadhead, a 5-foot-9 guard from Glenville, N. Y., who prepped at Scotia Glenville High School, Utah standout Amy Harris, a 5-foot-9 guard from Santa Clara and Snow Canyon High School and Savannah Irwin, a 6-foot-5 center from Carlsbad, Calif., and La Costa Canyon High School.

A very competitive schedule with three teams that played in last year’s NCAA tournament, three Pac-12 schools and three teams from the Mountain West Conference highlight this year’s schedule. In addition, the Cougars will battle opponents from the ACC, the Big East and the Big Sky Conference.

“We are playing a tough nonconference schedule again this year with teams that come from very strong and talented conferences,” coach Jeff Judkins said. “Our schedule is well balanced with teams that will hopefully help us prepare for another tough battle in our league.”

The Cougar women are set to play six nonconference games at home including the season opener with first time opponent and 2013 NCAA tournament participant South Dakota State on Nov. 8. Another first occurs the following week when ACC powerhouse Boston College makes its first visit to the Marriott Center on Nov. 16. Prior to hosting the Eagles, the team travels to Las Vegas to play former MWC foe UNLV on Nov. 12 at 4 p.m. PT.

Last season, the Marriott Center proved to be a very tough place to play as the team compiled a 15-2 overall home record including going 7-1 in WCC action.

Consecutive games against Pac-12 foes Washington State and Arizona round out the home slate for the month of November. The game versus the Cougars from Pullman is on Nov. 26 and the contest against the Wildcats is set for Nov. 30.

December opens with a three-game road swing at MWC foe Nevada on Dec. 3, followed by a game in Omaha against Big East foe and NCAA tournament participant Creighton on Dec. 7. An in-state trip to Ogden to battle Weber State on Dec. 10 rounds out the away games in the nonconference portion of the 2013-14 campaign.

Two home in-state matchups are scheduled prior to the start of league play for BYU. The University of Utah makes an appearance in the Marriott Center on Dec. 14 with the battle against the Aggies of Utah State coming a week later on Dec. 21. Both games tip off at 2 p.m.

The West Coast Conference portion of the 2013-14 schedule gets underway the last week of December.

“Our conference is as strong as it’s ever been this year with a lot of good teams that have very talented players returning,” Judkins added. “Every game is going to be a tough battle that should be a great challenge for us. Having traveling partners with the addition of Pacific is a good thing for our conference and with the number of very good teams that we have, we should get two or three teams in the NCAA tournament.”

BYU opens the league slate with four straight home games beginning with a matchup against LMU on Dec. 28 and a contest vs. Pepperdine on the 30th.

The following week Pacific and Saint Mary’s come to play in the Marriott Center on Jan. 2 and 4, respectively.

Three road games follow, as the Cougars will travel to Gonzaga on Jan. 9 and to Portland on Jan. 11. A game at San Diego closes out the road swing on Jan. 18.

San Francisco and Santa Clara make appearances in the Marriott Center on Jan. 23 and 25 before BYU battles its next four league foes on the road. '

The Cougars travel to Saint Mary’s on Jan. 30 and play at WCC newcomer Pacific on Feb. 1.

A game at Santa Clara on Feb. 6 and at San Francisco on Feb. 8 round out the road swing for BYU.

Portland and Gonzaga come to play in Provo on Feb. 13 and 15 before the Cougars take one last road trip in league action to battle Pepperdine on Feb. 20 and LMU on Feb. 22.

The team finishes conference play at home hosting San Diego on March 1, before heading to Las Vegas the following week for the WCC tournament that runs March 6-11 from the Orleans Arena.

In preparation for the 2013-14 campaign, the Cougar women will host two exhibition games against Colorado Mesa University on Nov. 1 and Westminster College on Nov. 2.