Women's Basketball Season Outlook

Oct. 16, 2003

CORVALLIS, Ore. -

The 2003-04 Oregon State women's basketball team has its eyes set on one goal this season - making it to the NCAA Tournament. The Beavers have made three consecutive postseason appearances with trips to the Women's National Invitation Tournament, but have not reached the 'Big Dance' since 1996.

'Our goal is always to get to the NCAA Tournament and this group is really determined,' said ninth-year head coach Judy Spoelstra. 'Everybody stayed again this summer to be really committed and workout - we've got a great senior class.'

Nine players return from last year's team that finished with a 15-15 overall record and made it's second straight top-5 Pacific-10 Conference finish with an 8-10 mark. Five of the squads' top-6 scorers return to the lineup and five players that started at least 19 games in 2002-03 will be ready to take the court and make a run for the NCAAs.

Experience is a key factor that the Beavers will rely on. A trio of seniors: Leilani Estavan, Brina Chaney, and Hollye Chapman have been the mainstay on the team over the last three seasons - all three players have played in every game over the past three years.

The 'big three' finished as the top three scorers on OSU's squad a year ago, posting more points together than the rest of the team combined.

'All three of them have improved tremendously during there time here,' said Spoelstra. 'I look forward to those three having a very consistent and solid year for us.'

Estavan, a Los Angeles, CA native, led the team in scoring with 12.0 points per game while dishing out a team-best 143 assists en route to first team All-Pac-10 honors. The 5-7 guard needs just 93 assists to break the Oregon State record.

'Leilani is really a great leader,' said Spoelstra. 'If you were to write down all of the qualities that you want to see in a leader - that's Leilani. She does it on the floor and off the floor.'

Chapman, from Cottage Grove, OR, finished second on the team in scoring and rebounding with 11.8 points per game and 6.1 boards per outing. A 6-2 post, Chapman shot .492 from the field and her 33 3-point field goals and 36-percent clip from beyond the arc led the squad. While Chaney, from Bothell, WA, led the team in rebounding with 6.4 boards per game and hit a team-high 82-percent (82-for-100) from the free throw line. The tallest player on the team, standing at 6-5, Chaney is an imposing force in the paint and blocked 70 shots on the year - second-most in the Pac-10.

'Brina and Hollye have done a great job working on their post moves and perimeter plays, especially Hollye working on getting open without the basketball so she can shoot the 3 more,' said Spoelstra.

Adding to the experience in the lineup will be senior post Krystal Turner, who led the team last year in field goal percentage with a .494 clip, and junior guard Jessica Jones, who has seen action in every game over the course of her two seasons while finishing third on the team in assists in 2002-03.

A solid group of sophomores will also return to the mix as Casey Bunn, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 Freshman pick after averaging 6.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, and Mandy Close, who made 19 starts are ready for their second season. Karen Vickery will add depth to the post position while guard Anita Rivera, who missed the second half of the 2002-03 season with an injured knee, is now at full strength.

The experience doesn't stop there as Oregon State has a trio of redshirt players - Ebony Young, Shannon Howell and Tarika Campbell - that have been practicing within the system for a year and now are eligible to see game action and look to make an immediate impact.

'Ebony joining us and Shannon and Tarika being available in January will bring defensive quickness,' said Spoelstra. 'They are really going to help extend our defense and hopefully give us some quick offense to turn to.

'That is really probably about 8-12 points that we were missing last year without some quick offense because we couldn't press. I think with Casey and Mandy being a year older and more experienced they are going to be a lot better at extending their defense and getting deflections which will help us put points on the board.'

Known for their defensive prowess, OSU finished second in the conference for points allowed per game last season.

Walk-on Bailey Stokes from Eugene, OR and freshman forward Kerstin Mellbye, the step-sister of Beaver four-year letterwinner Ericka Cook, will also work for playing time on the court.

'This group's work ethic is a huge strength,' said Spoelstra. 'They are very committed people. They also have tremendous chemistry and mutual respect for one another.'

Even with the hard work and hours dedicated to improving, only time will tell if the ultimate goal of the NCAA Tournament lies within reach.

'Being in postseason has been an invaluable experience because of all the extra work and time you put in and commitment of the students,' said Spoelstra. 'They want to go to the 'big show' and they feel like they have earned that right - they see that we are so much better than some teams in smaller conferences that get to go and that's really hard for them to understand.'

So is this the year?

'They are just really hopeful,' said Spoelstra. 'It would be a nice gift for Hollye, Brina and Leilani because they put so much time and effort into this program.'

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