(Photo by Kenny Crookston)
2011-12 Season Preview
Poised to continue its winning tradition in a new conference coupled with a roster that boasts seven returning letterwinners and two starters, the BYU women’s basketball team has high hopes for another successful season.
Last year the Cougar team compiled a 25-9, 15-1 record, marking the fifth 20-plus win season under coach Judkins, captured its third MWC regular season title and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the postseason WNIT.
“We’re excited about this upcoming year,” said head coach Jeff Judkins. “We have a lot of experienced players back and we have some slots to fill.”
Led by the experience and leadership of senior guard Haley Hall Steed and sophomore center Jennifer Hamson together with senior center Kristen Riley and sophomore guard Kim Parker who played in all games, the Cougars have a strong core of skilled players who understand what it takes to win.
Senior Dani Peterson, sophomore Stephanie Vermunt and junior forward Alexis Kaufusi also bring a wealth of experience to the BYU lineup.
“Having Haley’s experience and leadership will be the anchor for our team,” added Judkins. “We have a good mixture of veterans and new kids, good depth and hopefully our size and quickness will give us a competitive edge.”
Cougar fans will have an opportunity to see the play of two redshirt freshmen in Stephanie Rovetti and Timpanogos High School product Morgan Bailey.
Five Utah standouts will join the BYU program in the 2011-12 campaign, four of them garnering McDonald All-America nominations. Lexi Eaton, from Springville HS, Ashley Garfield, who prepped at Morgan HS, Xojian Harry, who competed at Viewmont HS and Sadi Dias, a Pine View High School product, bring a lot of talent and athleticism to the team. Joining the five is Mackenzie Nielson who was teammates with Eaton on a team that won two straight region champs and two 4A State championships.
“All of these players are winners who have played in very successful high school programs and for good coaches,” said Judkins. “They are hard workers, good all-around student-athletes and I’m excited for them to become members of our program. They are going to fit in really well with the kind of winning success we want for our program.”
A home game against ACC powerhouse Duke coupled with seven other teams who competed in postseason play in 2011 are on the calendar for the 2011-2012 nonconference schedule for the BYU women’s basketball team.
Teams featured on the schedule include two Pac-12 teams, two from the Big Sky Conference and the WAC, one from the Big 10 and the Big East, as well as Conference USA.
“We’re excited about our nonconference schedule which is one of our toughest in recent years,” Judkins said. “We’re excited about our team and the new players coming in, and this schedule will be challenging for them.”
Duke makes its first-ever appearance in the Marriott Center on Nov. 11 with Wisconsin playing on Nov. 23 and Easter Washington on Nov. 26. The Blue Devils advanced to the Elite Eight in last year’s NCAA tournament.
“The game against Duke will be a great opportunity for us to showcase our team and we want to have great support from our fans,” added Judkins.
In mid-November the Cougars go on a three-game road swing to Tulsa on Nov. 14, head to Kansas State on Nov. 16, finishing at instate rival Weber State on Nov. 19.
BYU concludes the month of November in Laie, Hawai’i with a game against BYU-Hawaii in the fourth annual Hukilau Invitational hosted by both schools. The Cougars are scheduled to also play Arizona and Syracuse in the Invitational on Dec. 1-2.
December at home features matchups against instate rivals SUU on Dec. 8 and the University of Utah on Dec. 10. The Cougars continue playing instate opponents traveling to Logan on Dec. 17 to battle Utah State.
The final home game of the year brings Nevada on Dec. 22. The Wolfpack were one of the five teams that competed in the 2011 postseason WNIT.
Playing its first season as a member of the West Coast Conference, the Cougar team looks to have a strong showing in the league race.
“I’m excited to be playing different teams that have similar values and great winning traditions,” Judkins said. “Gonzaga is always a top-20 program and I have a lot of respect for the coaches in this league. It will be nice to develop new friendships with them and I think we have a league that can have two to three teams compete in the NCAA tournament year in and year out.”
BYU will make its WCC debut with its conference-opener at St. Mary’s on Dec. 29, followed by a road game at Portland on Jan. 2.
The first league foe to make an appearance in the Marriott Center will be Loyola Marymount who comes to Provo on Jan. 5. On Sat. Jan. 7 the Cougars are at San Francisco before hosting Pepperdine on Jan. 12. Two more road games at San Diego and at Loyola Marymount follow on Jan. 14 and 19.
Portland visits the Marriott Center on Jan. 21 before BYU steps out of conference action to host Seattle University on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
The team returns to WCC play on the road for two games at Santa Clara and at Pepperdine on Jan. 28 and Feb. 2 respectively.
Cougar fans will enjoy seeing the team at home for five straight games beginning with St. Mary’s on Feb. 4. The following two weeks Gonzaga and San Francisco play in the Marriott Center on Feb. 9 and Feb. 16. On Sat. Feb. 18 the Cougars host San Diego followed by a Santa Clara matchup on Thurs. Feb. 23.
BYU will finish the league race with a road game at Gonzaga on Sat. Feb. 25 before traveling to Las Vegas for its first ever participation in the WCC Championships being played Feb. 29 to Mar. 5 at the New Orleans Arena. The winner of the league championship receives an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.