The BYU women’s basketball team says it is ready to make some noise in the West Coast Conference and claim the WCC title after finishing in third place last season.
The Cougars finished with an overall record of 23–11, but missed out on an NCAA tournament berth, eventually advancing to the third round of the NIT before falling in a close game to conference foe St. Mary’s.
This year, players and coaches have higher expectations.
“The team goal is to win the conference championship, tournament championship and go to the NCAA tournament and get to the Final Four,” said head coach Judd Judkins. “Last year we had a good year but we didn’t go to the NCAA tournament, and I know we want to go to the tournament this year.”
Driving to the basket and putting up points were weaknesses for the team last year, which hurt the Cougars in several games despite their strong defensive performances. Offensive production became even more of a problem after sophomore guard Lexi Eaton went down with a torn ACL against Utah State early in the season. Eaton was one of the leading scorers for the Cougars and was averaging 15.6 points per game at the time of her injury.
Eaton was forced to red shirt and spent the rest of the season on the sideline. She spent the last several months rehabilitating and getting back into shape and plans to immediately contribute to the team.
“I shot 500 shots a day, watched all my game films, went to all the pick-up scrimmages and watched my team,” Eaton said. “I’d spend five-plus hours in the gym (each) day just working on my game.”
“She looks great,” Judkins said. “Lexi is a scorer, she gets to the basket and she’s aggressive.”
The Cougars are looking to fill the shoes of point guard Haley Steed, who graduated after last season and was one of the team’s best producers, averaging 10.5 points and 7.5 assists per game. Junior Stephanie Rovetti, sophomore Kylie Maeda and freshman Makenzi Morrison are all competing for the point guard position.
“Stephanie Rovetti would be starting right now at the point,” Judkins said. “Those three, depending on certain lineups, will play quite a bit.”
The Cougars will have the undivided services of senior captain Jennifer Hamson, as she decided earlier this year to focus solely on basketball. Hamson previously played for both the basketball and volleyball teams.
“It was a big decision. A lot of things went into it,” Hamson said. “I just kind of wanted to slow down and focus on basketball.”
Standing at 6 feet, 7 inches, Hamson is able to dominate teams defensively down low with great rebounding and shot blocking skills. Offensively, she is also a threat because of her ability to use her height and speed to post up and demand the ball.
“I really believe that Jen is the first player that I’ve had that can be a double-double person,” Judkins said. “That’s something we need — we need somebody that can rebound and score for us.”
The Cougars will hold their annual Blue and White scrimmage Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., and then open their season at home Nov. 1 against Colorado Mesa University.