Grady Lee Thomas
It is that time of the year again. The weather is chilly, days are getting shorter and students are waiting to heckle opposing basketball teams.
Just be sure not to tell that to the Leopard women’s basketball team, which is preparing to set this winter on fire and give the fans plenty to cheer about.
As the Leopards’ 2010-2011 regular season campaign commences, there is optimism and excitement around the Athletic Pavilion, in the form of new head coach Matt Rogers.
Prior to joining La Verne, Rogers coached at Maryville University in St. Louis, where he led the men’s basketball team to Division II prominence in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, claiming two conference championships.
“I think the success I’ve had has matured and relaxed me. I am much more efficient than I was as a younger coach,” Rogers said. “I feel I’m just as passionate as I was ten years ago, but I understand how to approach the game more.”
“I understand that the accolades are not as important as the experience for the student-athletes. I want them to feel like they’ve come to the right place. Here, our girls can develop into who they want to be,” Rogers said.
Rogers is inheriting a team that is ripe for success.
ULV women’s basketball program has performed consistently well in recent years, going 70-35 since the 2006-2007 regular season.
The only other squad on campus to remotely see that kind of success is the women’s volleyball team.
“We plan on playing an up-tempo style of basketball and pressuring the opposing offense,” Chris Heimann, assistant coach, said.
“We want to enhance our student athlete’s experience by bringing excitement to the program. We want to give the faculty and staff a reason to watch us,” Heimann added.
“Every team will give us good competition and it’s not set in stone who will be conference champions,” Clarissa Holz, junior guard, said.
“We all feel this is the team to go far with. We have a new coach and a lot of returning players from last season. It’s going to be exciting to see what we can accomplish this year,” Holz said.
La Verne begins its regular season at home on Nov. 21 against Linfield and will play 14 home games.
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action will begin Jan. 8, when the Leopards host Whittier.
“It’s kind of like there was no off-season at all. We trained all year long together. This was new, because in the past we couldn’t get enough people together to play during the off-season, because everyone goes home,” Mayra Dueñas, senior forward, said.
“We are going to be smaller than most of the teams we play, but we are also going to be faster and better conditioned than our opponents. With our style of play, we aren’t worried about the lack of height we’ll have to overcome,” said Dueñas.
“We shape up with the rest of the conference really well and are coming out with a ‘no mercy’ attitude,” sophomore point guard Amanda Copas said.
Grady Lee Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.