Women's basketball looks to surprise the WCC

By The Beacon | November 10, 2010 9:00pm

Freshman Cassandra Brown, the Pilots most talented recruit, dribbles past a Seattle Pacific player in the game on November 4th. (Scott Chia -- The Beacon)

By PJ Marcello, Staff Writer -- marcello13@up.edu

After the Pilots finished their brief exhibition season with a 2-0 record, including a 103-55 route over Concordia College, WCC voters may be second guessing their decision to rank the Pilots fifth in the preseason rankings.

Junior point guard Rezina TecleMariam says that being ranked fifth made her upset at first and thinks the team was ranked too low.

"They know don't know about the freshmen we have and that if we want to run we can score," TecleMariam said.

This year's team, led by seniors Tara Cronin and Lauren Angel, looks to use athleticism and depth to make a run at the WCC title and a postseason berth.

"This team has the most depth of any team since I've been here," Cronin said. "The mix of our young potential and our experience should help us do well this season."

Head Coach Jim Sollars is also intrigued with what this blended team can do once they begin to fully execute.

"We're more athletic this year. This makes our defense better, and we don't have to rely on threes. We are athletic enough to push the ball and run more," Sollars said. "Our freshmen can be a big asset once they get used to the intensity. Any given day, we will have 10 to 11 legit helpers."

According to freshman forward Cassandra Brown, the transition from high school to Division I basketball can be difficult, but the freshmen are beginning to get used to the pace.

Brown is the Pilots' most talented recruit, averaging 34 points per game her senior year at Fulton High School in Vernon, B.C. Brown played 14 minutes in the Pilots' game against Seattle Pacific, going 2-6 from the field and reeling in five rebounds. Brown was recently signed to the 2010 Canadian Junior National Team.

Her size and athleticism should create mismatches that the Pilots will be able to exploit on both the offensive and defensive end.

"It's a lot different than high school," Brown said. "The girls are bigger, faster and stronger, and things that were easy in high school aren't as easy anymore."

The freshmen have been getting solid playing time in the first two games, and the team has meshed well so far with two wins against Concordia 103-55 and against Seattle Pacific 67-61 on Nov. 1 and Nov. 4.

In exhibition play, the Pilots showed they may be a formidable force in the WCC through solid guard play by TecleMariam and Cronin. Both averaged about nine points per game last season and have the ability to run the point. TecleMariam says that sharing the load is an advantage.

Part of TecleMariam and Cronin's success will be the return of guard/forward Natalie Day.

Day was the Pilots' leading scorer last season, averaging 11.2 points per game. She spent the summer playing for the Virgin Islands in the 2010 Central America and Caribbean Games where she was in the top 10 for rebounding and scoring.

The Pilots are a deep, experienced team with several players that either started or had substantial game experience last season.

With the addition of an athletic freshman class, the Pilots will be able to run the floor more on offense and pressure more on defense.

"We're a lot quicker this year and more athletic on both offense and defense. Anybody can penetrate," Teclemariam said

Senior center Angel and junior Alexis Gannis will resume duties down low. Angel started all 31 games last year, averaging nine points per game and four rebounds. Angel also started in 24 games her sophomore year. Although she only started one game her freshman year, Gannis appeared in 26 games and was selected to the WCC All-Freshman Team.

The next home game will be against northwest rival Washington State on Nov. 18. Cronin hopes for a big crowd.

"Let's get the fans in the Chiles Center!" she said.

Junior Natalie Day airmails a pass to a teammate in the 67-61 Pilot victory over Seattle Pacific. (Scott Chia -- The Beacon)