The Seattle University women’s basketball team will play its first season in the Western Athletic Conference and with full Division I status, after competing as an Independent during Division I reclassification the past four years. This season they will have the chance to compete in the WAC tournament and compete for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“Well, I think the first year in the WAC, this is our opportunity,” said head coach Joan Bonvicini. “I think the best way to describe, going in, is cautiously optimistic. We know we have a good core group, but there’s always unknowns. The biggest unknown is that we really don’t know these other teams. We know a lot of them come from different conferences, but we also know there’s a lot of good coaches in the league. Once we’re in conference play, we’re going to learn a lot in the first round [of games], a lot about each team and ourselves. But I know that with my having been in a number of different conferences, they’ll be well-prepared. I’m very excited about this opportunity.”
Bonvicini will be returning a mixture of returning and new talent, losing key players to graduation, but also adding newcomers that will make immediate contributions to the team’s success.
With the graduation of top players like Talisa Rhea, who finished averaging 14.1 ppg and led the team with 165 assists in 2011-12, and Elle Kerfoot, who became just the 11th player in program history to pass the 1,000 career point mark, the Redhawks will now look to this year’s upperclassmen to lead the team.
Seniors Maggie McCarthy (Burlingame, Calif.), Daidra Brown (Seattle, Wash.), and Brenda Adhiambo (Mombasa, Kenya), will provide senior leadership for the team this season. Brown led the team with 58 steals in 2011-12 and McCarthy, returning from a knee injury last season, is now 100% recovered and ready to tackle the team’s first season in the WAC.
Bonvicini on McCarthy: “Maggie was a roleplayer last year. I think she’s improved her jumper, she’s smart, and she’s going to have an excellent senior year.”
Bonvicini on Adhiambo: “Brenda is ready for a breakout year. She came as a junior college transfer last season and had a good year, but I think that [transition] is so much like a player coming from high school as a freshman. It’s learning the system and adjusting to college life in a more rigorous setting, and she’s done well. I always tell her I want a double-double, and I think we’ll see her have a really good season. I’m really excited for her, she’s a great offensive player.”
Bonvicini on Brown: “Daidra, as a sophomore, led us in steals and was one of the tops in the country. Last year, she played a lot of minutes, but did it coming off the bench. I think you’ll see her more in a starting role this year and having the ball more in her hands. She’s still quick, but she has improved her jumper tremendously and is one of our best on-ball defenders.”
The Redhawks’ top tier junior class, consisting of Kacie Sowell (Ventura, Calif.), Ashley Ward (Irvine, Calif.) and Sylvia Shephard (Alta Loma, Calif.) will prove to be a driving force in the team’s success this season. Sowell averaged a double-double, recording 18 total over the season, and was named the Women’s Basketball Independent Player of the Year in 2011-12. Ward led the team in free-throw shooting percentage (84.9 percent), ranking 26th in NCAA Division I. Shephard received a College Sports Madness Independent Player of the Week award and ranked second on the team with 164 total rebounds. They will each only add to their success from the past two years, and are sure to have very exciting junior seasons.
Bonvicini on Sowell: “Kacie is coming off a very, very good sophomore year, but seeing her now in practice, she’s [even] improved. She’s been able to develop more moves in the low post, and has definitely added a nice jumper from both the high post and a little bit further out. More than anything, the bar has been raised [as a program], but she has also raised the bar personally. She expects more from herself, and she’s been named one of our captains. I’m excited about her future and I’m excited about this season for her, because she’s a very hard worker and a great person.”
Bonvicini on Ward: “Ashley also has improved. We’re going to see her more at the perimeter. We will see her a little bit at the post, but more at the perimeter. She gives us good size and is smart. She’s versatile, she can drive, she can shoot the three, but she’s really deadly with her midrange jumper. She’s also very good getting to the basket. She shoots a lot of free-throws, she led us in free-throw percentage [last year]. I think for both Kacie and Ashley, you’ll see their numbers go up. Not just that they’re scoring more, but that their percentages go up.”
Bonvicini on Shephard: “Sylvia, more than anyone, I think, is going to show the biggest improvement. I knew when we recruited her, she had really good numbers, but I really think this year is going to be the year that people are going to see Sylvia as an excellent jumpshooter, coming off the dribble or screen. The thing that we’ve really gotten her to do is get to the basket, and be a really good offensive rebounder. She’s physical, she’s strong, and still very quick. I’m excited for her and for us.”
This year’s sophomore class, Renee Dillard-Brown (Seattle, Wash.) and Makenna Clark (Auburn, Wash.) played a combined 32 games in 2011-12, but, with work they’ve put in during the offseason, will look to increase their influence and clock more minutes for the Redhawks in 2012-13.
Bonvicini on Clark: “Makenna is a very good player, is smart, and will come off the bench, but I think we’ll see her a lot more in action this year. She’s a good three-point shooter and has excellent leadership skills.”
Bonvicini on Dillard-Brown: “Renee has improved tremendously. She’s smart, is in better shape and condition, and is much more physical. Her minutes will be up, she’s a better rebounder, and is one of our best leaders.”
Three of this year’s five freshman, including redshirt freshman Kim Flournoy (San Diego, Calif.) hail from California. True freshmen Shelby Dougherty (Fullerton, Calif.) and Catherine Perez (Palo Alto, Calif.) also hail from the Golden State, while Kristin Stoffel (Mill Creek, Wash.) and Taelor Ross (Vancouver, Wash.) are from the state of Washington. These student-athletes have already shown potential and improvement in practice and will make an immediate impact for the Redhawks this season.
Bonvicini on Flournoy: “Kim is coming off a knee injury, and is now 100%, but is really getting used to what it means to play at this level. She has good size and quickness, and is someone who will continue to improve as she really begins to trust her knee.”
Bonvicini on Dougherty: “Shelby will be a point guard, and is a smart, excellent assist player and good shooter. She’ll be coming off the bench in a complimentary role.”
Bonvicini on Stoffel: “Kristin is smart. She is a good perimeter shooter, can hit the three-pointer, and understands basketball; she’s been well-coached.”
Bonvicini on Perez: “Cat can hit the three-point shot and is making the adjustment to college basketball. She’s someone who, I think, will be improving as the season goes on.”
Bonvicini on Ross: “Taelor has improved tremendously. I think she’ll definitely get time, probably in spots, but she’s going to be a force. [She’s a] great rebounder, and is learning the game of basketball and tempo, but she’s going to be a good player.”
Seattle U women’s basketball will open up 2012-13 with eight of their first nine games played on their home court, including exhibition matches. The Redhawks begin the season with exhibition contests versus Simon Fraser (Nov. 1) and Western Washington (Nov. 3) before opening up the regular season versus Pacific (Nov. 9).
“Both of our exhibitions are versus smart, well-coached teams. It’s a really good way for us to measure and see where we are. Pacific is a team we lost to in OT [last season] and they ended up having a great year. They went to the NIT and beat Arizona State in the first round, and are now favored to win the Big West [this year]. They have a good team, so that’s going to be a challenge.”
Nov. 14 will be a special day, as Bonvicini coaches her 1000th career game versus cross-town rival Washington at KeyArena.
“Washington had a very good year, much better than a lot of people thought. They’re returning the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and are bringing back Krista Kingma, a very good guard who was injured last year. They’re going to have great perimeter scoring, so we just know it’s going to be a good game.”
Bonvicini on her 1000th career game on Nov. 14 vs. UW: “One
thousand games is crazy when you think about it, but I feel as energized
and as excited as when I first started. I’ve had some of the best
players to ever play the game, but this experience here at Seattle U has
been probably my most rewarding. To see the change from the beginning
to now and how the players have changed, what their expectations are,
how the program has grown, it’s been fun. I feel very very fortunate to
have this opportunity here.”
The Redhawks will also host preseason games versus UC Irvine (Dec. 1) and Portland State (Dec. 9) as well as the Washington Dental Service Thanksgiving Tournament (Nov. 23-24) versus Portland, Boston College, and Sacred Heart.
“Portland is well-coached, solid, and smart. Boston College has a new coaching staff from the ACC, and they’re very athletic and smart. Sacred Heart is a team similar to us, a great midmajor, and they won 25 games last season.”
Seattle U will play only three non-conference games on the road, at Colorado State (Nov. 17), Pepperdine (Dec. 14), and BYU (Dec. 20).
“Colorado State is going to be our first road challenge. BYU is going to be a great game, as they won the West Coast Conference tournament and went to the NCAA’s last season. They’re returning their size and their point guard, so it’s going to be a tough challenge for us.”
On Dec. 29, the Redhawks will travel to nearby Idaho for their first ever WAC contest, and will play their first WAC home games versus Utah State (Jan. 3) and San Jose State (Jan. 5) right after the new year. Conference play will lead up to the WAC Championships on March 12-16 in Las Vegas, Nev., where all 10 teams will compete.