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The La Grande Observer Paper 08/27/14

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STEADY PLAYER: Christy Smith was a consistent contributer for the Mountaineers last season. ().
STEADY PLAYER: Christy Smith was a consistent contributer for the Mountaineers last season. ().

By Raenelle Kwock

Observer Staff Writer

Experience mixed with local talent describe the Eastern Oregon women's basketball squad.

Nine Mountaineers return from last year's team (14-13 overall, 11-7 Cascade Collegiate Conference).

The Mountaineers' season ended in an overtime loss to Southern Oregon in the CCC semifinals.

Eastern Oregon coach Anji Weissenfluh said the Mountaineers' goals are to improve their win-loss record and go further into the playoffs.

She said the Mountaineers would like to finish in the top three in conference and host a playoff game at home.

Last season, the Mountaineers were tied with Western Baptist and Cascade at the end of conference play for the third best record. Because of tiebreakers, the Mountaineers finished fifth.

Last year, the Eastern women as a whole were among the toughest rebounders in the conference, even though the Mountaineers were one of the smallest teams in the CCC.

Weissenfluh will be counting on the entire team in the rebounding department because all-CCC honorable mention Heather Epeldi, who led the Mountaineers with nine rebounds per game, completed her eligibility last season.

"I foresee everyone doing their job on the offensive boards," Weissenfluh said.

Post Sarah Smith stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall. Forwards Michelle Kinley and Christy Smith are 5-10 and 5-8 respectively.

"Our guards got to be active on the boards," Weissenfluh said.

All-CCC first team junior Jamie Jo Cant (Imbler High School), junior Linzi Strohm (Enterprise), junior Sandy Isbell (La Grande), sophomore Candice Davis (Echo) and freshman Christie Weaver (La Grande) will draw more fan and community support, Weissenfluh said.

"It's huge having locals," she said.

Cant led the Mountaineers in scoring with an average of 13.8 points per game. She is one of four returning starters.

The others are point guard Tricia Haddock, forward Cory Nelson and Smith. Nelson and Haddock averaged 8.6 points per game each.

Weissenfluh said Davis came on strong at the end of the season.

"She has great hands," she said. "She runs the floor well. She has a nice soft touch."

"She's strong," Weissenfluh said about Strohm, who transferred from Linn-Benton Community College. "She's quick. She experienced great success at the high school level."

Weissenfluh said the Mountaineers lacked an outside shooter last season, so having Weaver is huge.

"She can shoot the ball," Weissenfluh said.

The returnees have gotten better and are working hard during practice, which Weissenfluh hopes carries over into the season.

"We want to get out of the blocks ... quickly," she said.

"We're continuing to improve," Weissenfluh said. "We're continuing to be hungry and get better."

The Mountaineers host Cascade College Nov. 22 in their first official game. While Cascade is in the CCC, it is a non-conference game.

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