Washington Women's Basketball Moving Forward

Oct. 24, 2003

By Mason Kelley

Special to GoHuskies.com

Seattle - When the University of Washington women's basketball team takes the floor this season it will have a very different look.

'I think it's a new beginning for the new kids in our program,' coach June Daugherty said. 'I think we have veterans who are ready to step up and play an even bigger role than what they've been in the past.'

Gone are seven players from last year's team that finished tied for second in the Pac-10 with a 13-5 record.

Loree Payne graduated after finishing her career in sixth place on Washington's career scoring list with 1,675. With Payne gone the Huskies are going to have to find a way to replace her 14.4 points per game.

'It's going to be a team effort and we embrace that,' Daugherty said about replacing Payne's scoring. 'We're not caught up in having just two kids scoring 20 points a game. If somebody gets 20 points that's great, another night somebody else that's fine.'

Kayla Burt and Sarah Keeler, two key contributors last season, had to move to the bench in a coaching role with career ending injuries.

Emily Autrey, Kellie Dalan, Alicia Heathcote, and Cheryl Sorenson all graduated.

With the turnover on this year's team it could be an opportunity for players and coaches to make excuses of why they might not be contenders in the Pac-10. Daugherty likes the newcomers and is confident knowing that she still has some great senior leadership returning from last year's squad.

'It has been imperative that we have great leadership from the upper classmen in our summer workouts as well as our fall workouts,' Daugherty said. 'I think our upper classmen have been committed to that.'

Back is Pac-10 player of the year Guiliana Mendiola. Mendiola is the 18th player in school history to score 1,000. She set the Washington single season record for assists with 162. Time and time again last season she put the Huskies on her back and as a senior her role will be even more important.

'The more pressure you put on her, the more she just thrives on it,' Daugherty said of her star player. 'As far as an encore it is going to be fun to sit back and watch and see where she takes this team.'

Also returning is center Andrea Lalum, guard Kristen O'Neill and Gioconda Mendiola. Lalum will begin her fourth year as a starter and exhibits a feathery touch from outside although it will be her goal to establish herself as a force in the middle.

'She's been out there three days with us and I commented on her black eye which makes her look a lot tougher and I like that about her since she's supposed to be playing inside,' Daugherty said. 'I think she's ready for a huge senior year.'

O'Neill stepped in after Kayla Burt was forced out of action with a heart condition called Long Q-T Syndrome. O'Neill started 20 of 30 games for the Huskies, and made her mark as an outstanding defensive player.

Last year was a tough year for Washington having to deal with more issues off the court than on the court. However, a year later Washington has grown together and with all outside issues behind them they can focus all of their energy on playing basketball.

'Seeing what they went through in particular last year as a program and how they just rallied with their backs against the wall and here comes another hit, and they just kept finding a way to put it back together and step up together,' Daugherty said. 'The courage they had was a great thing to see and I think we all learned a lot about their character and we are really proud of them.'

Looking to make and impact this year will be red-shirt sophomores Kirsten Brockman and Nicole Castro as well as red-shirt freshman Jill Bell.

Highlighting the pre-season schedule will be home games against Gonzaga, Notre Dame and Texas Tech and as usual the Pac-10 is loaded with talent.

It is never easy to lose seven players in one year, but with plenty of experience returning mixed with a little youthful energy look for the Huskies to contend in the Pac-10 this season.

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