Nov. 9, 2011
UVU's Game Notes vs. Long Beach State & Walla Walla
OREM, Utah - With 10 letterwinners and all five starters coming back for Utah Valley University women's basketball in 2011-12, 17th-year head coach Cathy Nixon is excited about her team's chances.
"We are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year, in terms of the girls' preparation, experience and understanding of the system," said Nixon. "The girls knew what they had to do to put themselves in a good situation to be ready to start the season strong this year and I feel like they have really done that."
Along with UVU's one-two punch of Sammie Jensen and Jenna Johnson being back once again, the Wolverines will also welcome back 2009-10 starting center Erika Newbold to the lineup after missing all of last year with an injury.
Jensen, the reigning Great West Newcomer of the Year as well as a First Team All-Conference player, and Newbold, a GWC honorable mention all-conference selection two years ago, will look to lead the Wolverines in the post while Johnson, an all-conference second team player, will strive to lead the squad around the perimeter. Jensen led the Wolverines in scoring and rebounding last year with a double-double season average (14.0 ppg, 10.7 rpg) and the shooter Johnson finished right behind her in points 13.5 ppg. Newbold also put up 7.7 points and 6.2 boards per contest two years ago.
In all UVU welcomes back 11 players in seniors Abbie Beutler (guard), Johnson (guard) and Tasha Sanborn (center), juniors Jensen (forward), Kaycee Mansfield (forward), Cydne Mason (guard), Newbold (center) and Kyra Prause (forward), and sophomores Kim Bell (forward), Whitney Jenkins (guard) and Kali Roche (forward).
"It's nice to have so many kids back this year," said Nixon. "I feel like in many ways they are all better than they were a year ago. In the exhibition game Sammie (Jensen) showed she's even ahead of where she was last season and Jenna (Johnson) still showed us that she can be our go-to perimeter player. In all we have more depth at every position than we had last year and that will really serve us well."
This year Utah Valley also welcomes five newcomers to the fold. Three of them come straight out of high school in Jessica Bachynski (forward), Taylor Huber (guard) and Ashley Klemz (guard), while two are transfers in sophomore guard Tina Doughty (New Mexico) and junior guard Alle Finch (Snow College). Although Finch will be eligible for the season Doughty will not due to NCAA transfer regulations.
"All our newcomers will make an impact on our team this year and that includes Tina (Doughty)," Nixon added. "Even though she is sitting out the year, she has already impacted our team in competing against them everyday in practice. She is a very talented and skilled player."
UVU went 8-21 overall last season but finished the season strong by winning six of its final nine contests. The Wolverines also finished fourth in the Great West with a 5-7 conference record. UVU, who was recently selected to finish second in the Great West's Preseason Poll, finished 10 points in the poll behind North Dakota who was projected to win.
The Wolverines will open the season Friday at Big West member Long Beach State. The game against the 49ers will begin at 8 p.m. (MT) and live stats and live audio will be available by visiting LongBeachState.com.
The game will mark the first all-time meeting between UVU and LBSU. The 49ers, which were tabbed to finished ninth in the Big West Preseason Poll, finished 8-23 overall last year and 6-10 in conference play. Long Beach State returns just four letterwinners and two starters to the court this season.
"We really want to get off to good start to our pre-season schedule," Nixon added. "We have some good teams coming to Orem this year and it is important for us to defend our home court. We need to establish ourselves early on so that we can gain some momentum heading into the conference season. This will all help us to achieve our main goal, to win the Great West Championship."
After the Long Beach State game, UVU will come home for two games next week when they host Walla Walla University on Nov. 14 and Idaho State on Nov. 19. The Wolverines will then take on Northern Arizona and Kent State in Flagstaff, Ariz., over Thanksgiving weekend before heading to Cedar City, Utah to face Southern Utah on Nov. 30. In the first of December, the Wolverines will then begin a key five-game homestand when Tulsa (Dec. 3), Weber State (Dec. 8), SUU (Dec. 10), NAU (Dec. 17) and South Dakota (Dec. 19) all come to town.
Over Christmas break UVU will play road contests at Weber State (Dec. 21), Utah (Dec. 28) and Boise State (Dec. 31). The Wolverines will then host San Jose State (Jan. 5) and Longwood (Jan. 10), and travel to Logan for a date with the Utah State Aggies in between the two on Jan. 7. UVU will then officially begin its 10-game Great West Conference season at North Dakota on Jan. 21.