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The Moutaineers and Tayor Riley (24) were picked to finish at the top of the Cascade Conference along with The College of Idaho this season.
EOU shuffles in new group into starting line-up this season
Despite a new-look team, the Eastern Oregon University Mountaineers women’s basketball squad enters this season riding its strong reputation.
EOU was selected No. 18 in the preseason coaches’ poll despite graduating five of its top six scorers from last season.
EOU lost two NAIA All-Americans players from last season. Leading scorers Brooke Randall, a third-team selection, averaged 15.7 points per game. Kelsea Hurliman, a honorable mention, was second on the team with a 13 points per game average.
Mountaineers head coach Anji Weissenfluh knows that she can’t dwell on the past, or try to get her current players to fit last year’s mold.
“We lost a lot from last season,” Weissenfluh said. “There’s no doubt about that. We lost a lot of the obvious things you see on the court, but we also lost a lot of those intangible things that the senior class brought last season. We’re searching for things like toughness and leadership. It’s going to be a work in progress.”
One of the bright spots for the Mountaineers is the return of starting point guard Nicole Redd. The senior started 34 of the 35 games last season, and Weissenfluh said Redd is a key part to the team again this season.
“We’re going to be dependent on her this season for a lot of things,” Weissenfluh said. “She’s going to have her hands on the ball a lot. Nicole has got to be the leader of this team.”
Role players from last season have been thrust into the starting line-up. Junior Taylor Riley and sophomore Maloree Moss will play a large part into the success the Mountaineers will have this season.
“They’ve taken their new roles very seriously,” Weissenfluh said. “It was great to have players like them coming off the bench last season, but they know that we need more from them this year. There ready to make that next step.”
Weissenfluh, in her 14th year coaching the Mountaineers, won’t have the luxury of physical posts like she did last season in Chayla Jones and Jorie Freeman. EOU will use the athleticism of its posts to get up and down the floor instead.
“We’re going to be running the floor as much as possible,” Weissenfluh said. “Kelsey (Hill) will be a big part of that. We’ll be looking for transition baskets. Nikki Osbourne also gives us that ability to push the ball. We’re not going to have as much of a back to the basket presence this season. But, it could be something that progresses as the season moves along.”
Kassy Larson, a junior transfer from Wenatchee Community College and returner Nyesha Joseph will be the more physical posts in the paint, Weissenfluh said.
The Mountaineers are hoping to add some depth Friday. Senior transfer Brittney Newcomb, from Weber State, is waiting to be granted her eligibilty from the NAIA.
“Brittany has great foot speed,” Weissenfluh said. “She’ll bring some of those intangibles that we’re looking for. She’s a leader and brings toughness. Brittany can also knock down shots, we’ll be counting on her scoring.”
EOU will also be counting on its freshman down the road. Weissenfluh has had the ability with several blowouts during the Mountaineers three preseason wins to get her younger players some quality minutes.
Payton Parrish, from Grandview, Wash., is averaging 10.7 points per game this season. Lauren Mills, a La Grande High School graduate, is averaging 10 minutes per game this season.
“Their strength is scoring the ball,” Weissenfluh said. “They shot the ball very well for their high school teams, and I think they’ll be able to do it at the college level too. We just want to work on getting them comfortable, and see how things progress.”
The Mountaineers were picked to finish first along with the College of Idaho in the Cascade Conference. Weissenfluh said it’s going to be an interesting season across the conference.
“It’s always a tough conference,” Weissenfluh said. “But it’s going to be different this season. There were a lot of good players that graduated. I sense a lot of parity in the conference this season. I think there will be a lot of upsets, only because it looks that way on paper. I don’t think there’s a lot of separation from the top to the bottom of the league.”
EOU, 3-0 overall, heads to the Spokane Challenge this weekend. The Mountaineers open the tournament against Montana State Northern-University tonight at 7 p.m. EOU will take on the Univeristy of Great Falls Montana at 5 p.m. Saturday.