Pacific Women's Hoops Tips Off Season In Seattle Friday
After an extended preseason, the Pacific women's basketball team opens the 2012-13 regular season Friday at Seattle as part of a two-game road trip. The Tigers will face Eastern Washington on Sunday before returning home to the Alex G. Spanos Center.
The Tigers and Redhawks tip-off at 7 pm Friday from Seattle's Connolly Center.
Pacific, coming off an 18-14 season and a trip to the second round of the WNIT, looks to build on the program's momentum gained last season. The Tigers advanced to the postseason for the second time in school history and won the program's first post-season game with a WNIT first round win over Arizona State.
Since last March, the Tigers opened camp in August, preparing for a four-game exhibition tour in France. The Tigers went 2-2 versus a diverse group of talent in Paris, Lyon and Nice in late August. After 30 more preseason practices, the Tigers hit the court for an exhibition against Cal State East Bay, rolling to a 84-47 win Sunday at the Spanos Center.
And now, finally, 11 returning letter-winners and three newcomers hit the floor on Friday for the season opener against the Redhawks of Seattle University. Seattle finished 20-12 last season, advancing to the third round of the Women's Basketball Invitational as an independent.
"At this point in the season, everyone is ready for some games," said head coach Lynne Roberts, entering her seventh year at the helm of the Tigers. "I know this team is really ready to play. We take on a very good Seattle U team. It's going to be a good challenge for us. And then we go to Eastern Washington on Sunday. We know we have our hands full with these two teams, going on the road. It's going to be a challenge, but we're excited."
With eight of the top nine scorers back from last season, Pacific is ready to challenge for a Big West title in the Tigers' final year in the conference.
The Tigers boast five seniors, including three returning starters. Senior forward Kendall Rodriguez was named to the preseason All Big West Team, and also earned preseason BWC Player of the Year accolades from College Sports Madness. The only returning player from last season's BWC First Team, Rodriguez led the Tigers last season with 13.0 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game. Also back is senior guard Erica McKenzie, who earned All-Big West Honorable Mention honors last season. She hit a single-season Pacific record 75 three pointers while averaging 11.7 points per contest. Fellow senior guard Ashley Wakefield averaged 12.2 points per game and returned from missing 10 conference games to tally a career-high tying 24 points in the second round of the WNIT.
Junior guard Gena Johnson (10.2 points per game) returns as the team's starting point guard. The last season, Johnson led the team in blocked shots with 44 and was one of two point guards to rank in the NCAA leaders in that category. Sophomore center Kendall Kenyon moved into the starting role in the second half of last season, averaging 6.3 points per game with five double-doubles on the year.
Forwards Ashley Smith and Brianna Johnson also return for their senior seasons. Smith tallied a double-double in Pacific's exhibition win over East Bay, while Johnson chipped in six points. Junior guard Sam Pettinger started 14 games last season in Wakefield's absence, averaging 5.3 points as a starter while handing out 59 assists on the season.
Sophomore guards Kristina Johnson and Claire Conricode round out the Tigers returning letterwinners, while redshirt freshman guard Hailie Eackles will see full action after missing all but nine minutes of the season opener following ankle surgery.
Joining the Tigers for 2012-13 are junior Shanice Butler, a 6-2 forward from Central Arizona Junior College, and freshmen Ande Lampert and Tabatha Anderson. Lampert, 6-4 post, averaged 11.3 points per game at Boulder High in Colorado. Anderson, a 5-3 guard, averaged 11.3 points at Pleasant Valley High in California. Guard Erin Butler transferred in to the program from the University of Arizona after one season, but will sit out this campaign per NCAA rules.
Following Friday's game, the Tigers will visit Eastern Washington for a 1 p.m. tip-off on Sunday. The Cougars were 16-14 last season, including a 10-6 mark in the Big Sky Conference.
Pacific will return to the Spanos Center for the home opener on Nov. 15 against Nevada.