2005-06 WWU Women's Basketball Preview
Oct. 17, 2005
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - They had a year that at first glance seemed exceptional. The Western Washington University women's basketball team posted a 24-5 record in 2004-05, was second in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference at 15-3 and reached the West Regional semifinals of the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
But in the midst of that success, there was a sense of unfinished business for the Vikings.
"We want the players to walk out of the locker room after our last game knowing that they reached their potential," said Western coach Carmen Dolfo (15th year, 302-110). "I don't think they felt that last year.
"We set our goals to reach our potential as individuals and as a team. We have a really good group of five seniors, I hope those standards are set high."
Western, which has never failed to reach the national tournament in seven years as an NCAA II member, is ranked No.14 in the Division II Bulletin Preseason Top 25. Four starters return from a year ago.
Leading the returnees is 6-foot senior forward Tina Donahue (Stanwood), a Division II Bulletin Preseason All-American and GNAC Player of the Year. Donahue led the Vikings in scoring at 14.1 points a game last year, and also contributed 6.0 rebounds and 86.7 percent free-throw shooting, earning second-team all-West Region and all-GNAC honors, and honorable mention All-America status from Kodak/WBCA.
"Tina can do it in all areas of the game," said Dolfo. "She can score inside or outside, she's a great athlete, and she's such a complete player. She has the potential that if she stays focused, she could have one of the best seasons of anybody we've had."
The other double-figure scorer returning is 5-11 senior center Courtney Clapp (Kirkland/Juanita), who averaged 13.0 points and 4.7 rebounds and was outstanding in the post-season, totaling 55 points in two regional games, being named to the West Regional all-tournament team.
"It took her a while to adjust (after coming from junior college), but she showed what she could do last year," Dolfo said of Clapp. "She has great post moves, and is really competitive."
Senior point guard Samantha Hubbard (5-6, Carbonado/White River) has started the last two seasons. A year ago she averaged 4.4 points and posted team-highs of 3.9 assists and 1.8 steals.
"Sam has started since she was a sophomore, she's definitely a great defender and she's worked hard on her offensive game," said Dolfo. "She brings athleticism, but the mental aspect she brings is really important. She's just a great competitor."
Junior forward Krystal Robinson (Kent/Kentridge), 6-2, overcame a knee injury from the previous campaign to break into the starting lineup at midseason. She averaged 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds, and was ranked No.14 nationally in blocked shots (2.5).
"Krystal is an amazing shot blocker, and has good instincts on the court," Dolfo said. "She gives us a spark, and her offensive game is really developing."
In a sense, the Vikings have a fifth starter returning. Senior guard Kelly Dykstra (Elma), formerly Colard, sat out last season, but started the first 16 games of 2003-04 before being sidelined by a knee injury. Standing 5-10, she averaged 11.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals, shooting 47.1 percent from the floor, including 37.7 percent from 3-point range.
"She gives us a different maturity level," Dolfo said of Dykstra. "She's a great shooter, and she's really focused. She wants this to be a great year."
Another senior is 6-2 center Stephanie Dressel (Gig Harbor), who averaged 2.5 points and 2.1 rebounds last season.
"I think Steph will surprise some people," said Dolfo. "She's a great defensive player and rebounder. Last year, she was amazing in practice, and had some very good games. This season, I believe you'll see that transfer to a lot of games."
Also back up front is 5-11 junior forward Arielle White (Kent/Spanaway Lake), who contributed 3.4 points and 3.1 rebounds a year ago.
"Ari has had some incredible moments, she just needs consistency," Dolfo said. "She can be amazing, it's just a matter of putting it into every practice, every game."
Two sophomores round out the returnees. Forward Liz McCarrell (Ferndale), 5-11, is the top-scoring reserve returning, averaging 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds as a freshman. Guard Elyse Hartman (Eagle River, AK/Chugiak), 5-8, averaged 1.7 points.
Four newcomers complete the roster, and each took different routes to the Vikings.
Center Willow Cabe (McCreary/Elma), a true freshman, took the most direct path. Another freshman forward, 6-2 Krista Lersch (Lynnwood/Blanchet), had scholarship offers when she graduated from high school in 2004, but initially came to Western that fall with no intention of playing basketball. Redshirt freshman forward Claire Pallansch (Redmond) came to the Vikings after a brief time at NCAA Division I Oregon State. Junior guard Mollie Stelmack (New Westminster, BC) is a transfer from NCAA II Franklin Pierce in New Hampshire.
"I love this new group, they have a lot of potential and they all fit well with the team," Dolfo said. "They've added something to our chemistry, which was already really good."
Cabe averaged 21.8 points and 11.7 rebounds in leading Elma to the Class 2A State Tournament, and was the Most Valuable Player of the Class 2A/3A State All-Star Game. Even at 6-1, she can step out and play on the perimeter.
The 6-1 Pallansch transferred to Western last winter, but her practice time was limited by a stress fracture. As a senior at Redmond in 2003-04, she averaged 12.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
Stelmack, 5-11, started every game for a 14-14 Franklin Pierce squad last season, receiving second-team all-league honors. She led the team in scoring at 13.6 points a game, with a school-record 76 3-pointers, and also contributed 3.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals.
Lersch was a first-team all-Metro League pick as a senior at Blanchet, averaging 12.5 points and 9.6 rebounds, helping the Braves place fifth at Class 3A state tournament.
Western has a schedule that includes seven games against teams that were in the West Regional last season, but the Vikings figure to benefit from opening with five home games and playing just one true away game prior to the new year.
"It's nice to be home early, especially for our seniors," Dolfo said. "But it certainly won't be easy. We play all the top schools in the CCAA (California Collegiate Athletic Association), so we'll find out early where we're at and what we have to work on."
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