Women’s basketball gets ready for the 2012–13 season

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(The Universe) BYU guard Mindy Bonham jumps into TCU forward Starr Crawford while shooting in the Marriott Center on Saturday.

The BYU women’s basketball team is ready to start the 2012–13 season with some high-reaching goals and new players.

The team ended its 2011–12 season with a 26-7 record overall; the 26 wins tie Head Coach Jeff Judkins’ record for most wins in a season. The Cougars finished 12-4 in the West Coast Conference.

Finishing second in the WCC in the team’s first season in the conference, Judkins got his sixth 20-plus win season, making him the winningest head coach in women’s basketball history.

After last year’s second-place finish, the team is aiming higher for this season.

“Well obviously it should be ours for the taking this year,” junior guard Kim Parker said. “We would be disappointed if we didn’t take the conference this year.”

In its 2011–12 season, the team made an appearance at the NCAA tournament; this year the Cougars plan on not only making it there, but staying in.

“Last year built the foundation for this year,” senior guard Haley Steed said. “Going in to last year we wanted to make it to the NCAA tournament, and we hadn’t done that for a while. This year we realize our goals are bigger than that. We don’t just want to make it, we want to make noise in the tournament. Having that foundation from last year, I think we learned a lot; a lot of these players gained a lot of very valuable experience and post-season experience with both the tournament in Vegas and the NCAA tournament last year. I think that experience is really a big building block for this team.”

Judkins is excited and proud to have two seniors returning to the team and believes with them leading the Cougars they will be able to go even further in the NCAA tournament.

“I think that’s why Haley came back,” Judkins said. “She came back for us to be able to reach our dreams a little bit further and hopefully get sweet 16, and if we’re on a roll, get to the top four. So that’s something that we are aiming for.”

Steed played in 2007 then had an injury red-shirt in 2008 and came back 2009–2011. She has decided to stay on and play for a fourth year.

Senior Keilani Unga played from 2008–10. After leaving the team for two seasons, Unga is back this year to play her fourth year.

“Keilani was around the team the last couple of years, so it wasn’t like she’s some new face coming,” Judkins said. “Last year, she really decided she wanted to (return to the team), but I told her the only way she could do it was to practice with our team last year, and she did that. She was willing to sacrifice. … She has gotten in shape, she understands what’s going on, she is an important part of our team. The way she plays really fits well with this team, so I think that’s going to help us a lot.”

The Cougars, however, also lost two seniors at the end of last season — Dani Peterson and Kristen Riley.

“Rebounding is concerning me because we lost Riley,” Judkins said. “Riley was a great rebounder, both her and Peterson, so somebody’s going to have to step it up.”

Six new freshmen join the team this year; Kristine Fuller, Kylie Maeda, Makenzi Morrison, Micaelee Orton and walk-ons Brooke Romney and Carly Stratton.

“Overall I think all of the new players are fitting in really well,” Steed said. “The freshmen are super talented, super coachable, and all of them are really hard workers. Obviously when you have those qualities you mesh in really well.”

Judkins is also optimistic about what the new players can bring to the team.

“I’m really excited about these four freshman,” Judkins said. “They got here this summer, worked hard, got in shape, went to school and got their mindset for what they need to do.”

The Cougars are ready to come out strong this year; their team saying is posted just outside the locker room, so they are constantly reminded of who to be.

“(The team saying) basically says this year we will be stronger, kinder, and it says we will be fierce,” Parker said. [pullquote]”So basically just being fierce all the time — on the court, watching film — that’s our main goal, just to always be fierce. – Kim Parker”[/pullquote]

Building upon last year’s successes, the Cougars look forward to the 2012–13 season.

“We want to carry over the kind of style that we played,” Judkins said. “And that was press, up-tempo, move the ball, hit the outside shot, be able to play a really good man-to-man defense.”

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