(Photo by Aaron Cornia/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah — The 2016-17 basketball season gets underway for the BYU women’s team this week when the squad plays two exhibition games in the Marriott Center.
The Cougars host Westminster, Wednesday, Nov. 2 and Colorado Mesa University, Friday, Nov. 4. Both games are free to the public, tip off at 7 p.m. and will be carried live on BYUtv.
Last season, BYU recorded its 10th 20-plus win season (26-7, 16-2) under head coach Jeff Judkins and competed in the NCAA tournament for the 12th time in program history. The Cougars won their first West Coast Conference regular season title, tallied an undefeated 12-0 record at home and went on a 16-game win streak, the longest in program history.
Westminster enters its second season in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) after finishing 12-14, 9-13 last year. The Griffins return 12 players including their top two scorers in Aubrie Vale, 11.6 points and Denise Gonzalez, 9.7 points per game. Westminster was picked to finish 10th in this year’s 15-member RMAC race.
Colorado Mesa University also competes in the RMAC. They were selected to finish in a tie for fourth place this year. The Mavericks compiled a 17-10, 14-9 record last season. In its first exhibition game of the 2016-17 campaign, Colorado Mesa lost 70-75 to Southern Utah in Cedar City on Oct. 25. Four players scored in double figures for Colorado Mesa, led by 15 points from Erin Reichle. Bryanna Adams tallied 12 with Nicole Archambeau and Sydney Small contributing 11 points each. Archambeau and Na’ata Epenisa topped the rebound category with six rebounds each in the loss.
The Cougars open up the season at Utah Valley University on Friday, Nov. 11. The team’s home opener is on Saturday, Nov. 19 against No. 18 Oklahoma.
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Building on her already stellar basketball career, All-American and 2016 WCC Newcomer of the Year, senior Kalani Purcell, anchors the BYU team with a double-double 12.0 points and 12.6 rebounds. She also leads in assists with a 4.7 average. On the national scene, Purcell ended last season ranked second in defensive rebounds per game, fourth in rebounds and fifth in rebounds per game. She also ranked 13th nationally in double-doubles. Senior Makenzi Pulsipher, an All-WCC Second Team honoree, is back for her final season. Pulsipher started all games in 2016, was the team’s second leading scorer with 12.7 and points, had the most steals on the team with 70 and was the team’s best free thrower, shooting .795 from the line. Sophomore Jasmine Moody is the third returning starter for the Cougars. She averaged 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per game last year.
A balanced team offense, a tough defensive presence and a wealth of experience will be keys to the Cougars recording another winning campaign. Juniors Amanda Wayment and Cassie Broadhead will be scoring threats and are solid defenders. Both played in all games last year with Wayment averaging 4.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and Broadhead averaging 3.9 points and 2.0 rebounds a contest.
Other experienced players like seniors Kristine Nielson and Micaelee Orton will also play vital roles in the success of the program. Nielson averaged 2.5 points and 1.0 rebounds while Orton contributed 1.8 points and 1.2 rebounds. MaCayla Hanks, who saw playing time in 12 games her freshman campaign, will be a strong inside player for BYU. She averaged 1.1 points and 1.1 rebounds per contest. Junior Brooke Romney Clawson is back after suffering a lis franc injury to her foot at the beginning of last season. She last played for BYU in 2012-13, competing in 10 games, averaging 2.6 minutes of playing time and tallying 11 rebounds one assist and one block. She then left to serve a mission to Concepcion, Chile. Haley Rydalch (Bodnar), a 6-foot-3 center from St. George, Utah will also be in the lineup this season. Rydalch transferred to BYU from Purdue last season, but set out the year due to an injury and because of NCAA transfer rules. She prepped at Desert Hills High School where she was a two-time Region 9 MVP and set the school record for most blocks, a feat she accomplished her sophomore year. Rydalch was a two-time Southern Utah Player of the Year and was named Gatorade Player of the Year in 2014.
Five new faces will be on the Marriott Center floor in 2016-17. Three guards, Liz Eaton, Brenna Chase and Ashton Williams along with forwards Jessica Chatman and Shalae Salmon will all battle for playing time.
Eaton prepped at Maple Mountain High School and led the state in scoring her junior season. She was ranked as one of the top 10 Utah Girls Basketball Guards to Watch by Max Preps.
Chase, a 5-foot-9 guard played at Broomfield High School in Thornton, Colorado. During her junior season, her team won the 5A state championship. She was twice a member of the United States Junior Nationals (USJN) Battle All-Star team.
Salmon is a 6-foot-3 forward from Porirua, New Zealand, where she’s been on the National U16 and U15 teams. In 2015, she competed in the NZ Women’s Basketball Championship League.
Chatman originally signed her letter of intent in November 2013 to begin play in 2014-15, but delayed her start in order to serve an LDS mission in Lansing, Michigan. The 6-foot-0 forward prepped at Union High School in Vancouver, Washington where she garnered three first team all-league citations.
Williams, a 5-10 sophomore guard, from Springfield, Illinois, played her freshman college season at the Air Force Academy in 2013-14 where she played in 13 games, starting in two. She averaged 16.1 minutes of playing time averaging 3.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. She then left to serve an LDS church mission to the Lima, Peru North mission. Williams prepped at Springfield HS where she was a three-year starter garnering two All-Conference First Team awards. She was a three-time team captain, made the All-Academic Team four straight years and was on the High Honor Roll four years as well.