Last season the women’s basketball team earned a berth to the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference postseason tournament and the second highest three-point shooting percentage in Division III, but this year has the makings of even greater success.
Despite the graduation of All-SCIAC standouts Emily Carrillo and Ashley Paul as well as Mayra Duenas and Nicole Wandler, La Verne is poised for another successful season.
“There’s a definite group think on where we’re going and where we want to go,” head coach Matt Rogers said.
In Rogers’ first season at the helm, the Leopards finished 12-14 and 9-5 in SCIAC.
This year the team has reloaded with nine newcomers, six of whom are junior college transfers.
The addition of players who have played at a higher level than high school brings more to the team than added court experience.
“It’s brought a level of maturity, competition and experience that has allowed our young girls to have more role models,” Rogers said. “When you have 11 juniors and seniors there’s a higher level of work ethic and it creates dynamic practices.”
Of the nine newcomers, six play at the forward or center positions.
Their presence fills a void from last year’s team, which relied heavily on perimeter shooting to earn a tie for third place in SCIAC with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
“We have some solid girls underneath that will give us some quality plays,” junior forward Kirsten Hurd said.
“We did a very good job achieving our recruiting goals,” Rogers said.
Rogers highlighted junior point guard Amanda Copas, senior guard Chantal Crouzet and senior point guard Raphaelle Buenafe to lead the 2011-2012 edition of the La Verne squad.
“They are different leaders (than last year’s) but have done a great job of inserting their personality into the team,” Rogers said.
Throughout the opening weeks of practice, the coaches have stressed basic concepts to the team that will hopefully allow for future reward.
“Communication, I think that’s the biggest key,” junior forward Christina Kinney said.
“The fundamentals and keeping it simple has been the key to everything,” Hurd said.
Another fundamental to success for the Leopards is not something that can be coached or a number on a stat sheet, the camaraderie of the team.
So far, so good for La Verne according to Hurd and junior guard Liz Armstrong.
“I think it’s the beginning of a new team, I think we’re getting there,” Hurd said.
“Everyone is getting used to one another on and off the court,” Armstrong said.
However Rogers has something more meaningful in mind.
“We want a strong bond,” Rogers said. “When we use the word family we want it to be genuine.”
In regards to team goals for this season, Rogers only has one in mind, to win a national championship.
Rogers’ thoughts have already translated to his players’ minds as well.
“Our team goals are definitely to come together and win a championship because we definitely have the talent,” Hurd said. “It’s about working towards that common goal.”
The season kicks off at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow when the team opens on the road at Vanguard.
With 36 days between their first day of practice and their first game, the team is eager to play.
On game day their preparation will not be in question.
“The way coach coaches, we’ll be ready in time,” Armstrong said.
The Leopards make their home opener at 7:30 p.m. Monday against Linfield.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.