Oct. 7, 2004
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - After a year away on sabbatical, coach Carmen Dolfo returns to the Western Washington University women's basketball team, excited to be back as coach and excited about the team she's returning to.
The Vikings were 21-8 overall for interim coach Sara Nichols, who returns to her previous role as the top assistant. They placed second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with a 13-5 mark, and made their seventh consecutive national appearance, reaching the West Regional semifinals of the NCAA Division II National Tournament. Three starters return from that squad, and there's also a host of newcomers.
"I'm excited because I'm rested, excited because of the new group we have coming in," said Dolfo (14th year, 278-105). "It's a fresh start."
Only four players remain from when Dolfo coached in the 2002-03 campaign, although three are returning starters. But Dolfo likes the level of athleticism the team has, as well as other less tangible qualities.
"This group has the makings of the chemistry that you need to be successful," Dolfo said. "We don't have captains this year. We have a lot of people who provide different sorts of things and we decided not to put that focus on one person."
One of the returning starters is the team's lone senior - guard-forward Jodi Gerald (Puyallup/Cascade Christian). Gerald averaged 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds last year, but that tells only part of the story. Gerald averaged 7.1 points through the first 15 games, but stepped up in a huge way when injuries to others changed her role, contributing 15.4 points over the last 14 contests.
"I'd expect Jodi to have a great senior year," said Dolfo. "She works so hard. Obviously she's a great shooter, she's also very competitive, and she passes that attitude on to everyone else. She has high expectations for herself and the team."
Also returning from the first unit are two juniors - forward Tina Donahue (Stanwood) and guard Samantha Hubbard (Carbonado/White River). Donahue averaged 10.1 points and 4.0 rebounds. She had 21 points in a NCAA II West Region first-round victory over Sonoma State.
"We've seen great games and great moments from Tina, but I think her consistency level should blossom this year," said Dolfo. "We need her to step up every game for 40 minutes."
Hubbard, the team's floor leader, averaged 3.6 points and 3.4 assists.
"I'd expect her to step up even more this season," Dolfo said of Hubbard. "She's an outstanding defensive player, and we'll ask her to score more. She needs to realize scoring is expected of her."
Three other letter winners return. Sophomore guard Devin Dykstra (Sumas/Nooksack Valley) was the top scorer off the bench last year, averaging 6.5 points.
"Devin is a fighter," Dolfo said. "She brings an intensity that I like."
Sophomore center Krystal Robinson (Kent/Kentridge) played in 15 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. She averaged 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds and led the team in blocked shots at 1.7 a game.
"It's hard to know how she'll come off the knee injury, but she just needs to play," Dolfo said. "The more minutes she gets, the more she'll contribute and improve."
Junior center Stephanie Dressel (Gig Harbor) also had her season limited by injuries, averaging 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds in 26 games despite a stress fracture in her foot.
The only other "returnee" is sophomore forward Arielle White (Kent/Spanaway Lake), who redshirted last season because of GNAC transfer regulations. She averaged 2.1 points and 2.3 rebounds at Saint Martin's College in 2002-03.
"Ari is very athletic, a great rebounder," Dolfo said. "The more she plays, the more I think we'll see out of her."
Western is hoping for an immediate impact from junior center Courtney Clapp (Kirkland/Juanita), a transfer from Santa Rosa JC in California, where she averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, earning first-team all-state honors.
"She could be huge for us," Dolfo said of Clapp. "She has good post moves and she's very strong. She has the experience as a transfer. We lost two great posts to graduation and we're fortunate she can come in and carry it on."
Another new center is freshman Gretchen Gottfried (Beaverton, OR/Southridge). She was a second-team all-Metro League pick as a high school senior.
"Gretchen has good back-to-the-basket moves and runs the floor very well for someone 6-2," said Dolfo. "The biggest thing for her is getting used to the physical post play at the college level."
McCarrell averaged 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds as a senior, setting a Ferndale High record with 1,350 career points. Burt, who was an all-state pick her junior year when she averaged 12.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists; averaged 11.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists as a senior.
"They are both very talented and athletic," said Dolfo. "It's just a matter of them adapting to the college game."
Overall, the Vikings may not be quite as big as in past seasons, but they make up for it by being a step quicker.
"We don't have the number of bangers we've had but we can get up and down the court as fast as anybody," said Dolfo. "I feel really confident the players we've brought in are the type that fit our program very well."
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