Correal Hopes To Bring Enthusiasm To Women’s Hoops

BOULDER – The dress rehearsals are over. No more closed-door scrimmages or exhibition games. From here on out, any time the University of Colorado women’s basketball team steps onto Sox Walseth Court will be a 40-minute struggle against a usually worthy adversary.

For most of coach Linda Lappe’s Buffaloes, it is nothing new. They have stood against top five teams and been in the national spotlight. But for Zoe Correal, she is stepping into something brand new.

“It is challenging,” says Correal. “You have practice, you have weights, you have tutors, you have school, it’s a lot.”

But it’s nothing that the freshmen out of Salesian Prep in San Francisco can’t handle. While plying her trade in Northern California’s Open Division, she averaged 11.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in 2013-14, earning All Tri-County Rock League honors en route to a NorCal Championship. While she shined as a high school senior, Lappe and her staff had been watching the 6-4 forward for a while. What they saw was a player with a high ceiling, one hadn’t even scratched the surface of how good she could be.

“Zoe kept getting better every year that we saw her,” Lappe recalls. “And especially with post players, that’s something you really look for in the recruiting process is a post player that continues to get better. We looked at Zoe as somebody who could run the floor, she plays really hard and finishes pretty well . . . around the rim. And she’s had a good attitude, has an attitude of wanting to get better.”

That good attitude led her to Colorado, where she instantly fell in love with atmosphere in Boulder. On her official visit to CU, she praised the chemistry that existed between Lappe’s players, and the positive environment that existed in the Coors Events Center.

“They seemed like a family, like in practice, they wouldn’t get down on each other,” Correal recalls. “They didn’t make anyone feel bad about themselves. It was a very positive experience, and that was just something that I really wanted to be a part of.”

She is a part of that experience now, and is working on elements of her game to become an eventual leader on the team. Since practice opened, she has been working with her post coach, Jenni Benningfield, to improve her offensive and defensive game.

“I’m working on staying low, being low in the post,” Correal says.  “I wasn’t very good at that and I feel like I’m getting better. I did do a lot of shooting and a lot of footwork with shooting, so I feel like I’ve gotten better on that and that’s what I’ve mainly worked on.”

While Correal highlights many of the things that she needs to improve on, Lappe already sees her forward progressing. But her growth projection has been changed in light of the injury to sophomore forward Arielle Roberson. Although the two are a very different type of forward, the loss of Roberson means that the Buffaloes are down one more position in the frontcourt.

“Arielle played the post for us and that’s one less post that we have, so I think that it helps her ability to maybe get on the floor faster,” Lappe explains. “But our plan for Zoe is can she be ready to come in and give us some great minutes as we go against bigger and bigger post players in conference. Will she be ready to come in and really help our team?”

Correal isn’t fazed by the increasing role she’ll have in the wake of Roberson’s injury. Instead, she embraces the challenge, and only uses it as motivation to continue to work hard ahead of her first season.

“It’s always been important for me to see the floor this year but now I have a bigger sense of urgency,” Correal says. “Considering we are down a body and we definitely need other people to step up and I’m definitely ready to step up."

Right now, the forward seems up to the task, performing well in the Buffaloes’ exhibition against CSU-Pueblo. In 16 minutes, Correal scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds. On a team where one of the top rebounders has been sidelined, Correals’ three offensive rebounds led to putbacks, and then to points. It was a solid outing for the forward’s first competitive game in a CU uniform. Lappe believes that games hold the key for Correal’s development.

“You want to get her game experience because there is nothing like game experience,” Lappe says. “She’s gonna do her work in practice but also getting some minutes in games is important to growth as it is with any player.”

If her first game is any indication, then Correal has a bright future for the Buffaloes. At 6-4, she hopes to bring her length and her perseverance to a team that went 19-15 last season and made a trip to the WNIT third round. On a team as competitive as this, Correal knows that nothing is given, only earned. On a team laden with frontcourt talent, she believes that hard work is the key to success and court time.

“It’s really important ‘cause we do have a lot of bigs so you can’t just show up and play, you gotta work for your spot,” says Correal. “Basically every practice I have to work to make coach Lappe notice me and see if I can get on the floor. “

Lappe certainly has noticed Correal’s attitude, and her desire to get better. If she continues on the path she’s on, fans may very well see her become one of Buffs’ top players.

“She’s pretty coachable...we think the sky’s the limit for her and she hasn’t even come close to reaching her true potential. She’s been really exciting to work with,” Lappe says. “We look forward to seeing her develop as she goes through her career.”

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