Women's Basketball Preview

By Mike McNeeley published November 14, 2003

Last season, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, without a single senior on the roster, went 7-20 overall, 5-12 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The Mountain Lions finished fifth in the West Division and played very competitive in most games, with five of their losses coming by five points or less.

This season CU-Colorado Springs brings back every key player from that squad, five of which started all 27 games last season. Two of those starters, B.J. McNeally and Jennine Sauter where selected All-RMAC last season.

Taking all that into account, it seems almost obvious that the Mountain Lions will improve on last years finish.

Well maybe not obvious to everyone.

Somehow, in the preseason RMAC-Coaches Poll, CU-Colorado Springs was picked to finish dead last, seventh in the Division. The low pick was something Coach Marty Fletcher didnâ€TMt expect.

“Normally when you have that many returning players from a team that finished fifth, it is surprising to be picked that low,” said Fletcher.

"The coaches must have found I was returning," he joked.

All joking aside, Fletcher knows the Mountain Lions are better than a last-place team. In fact, he feels they have improved at every position.

McNeally, who is entering her senior season, will run the point. She was named preseason All-RMAC West Division and already holds the school record for steals. She will also likely break the all-time scoring and assist records at some point this season.

“We expect big things from (McNeally) this year,” said Fletcher

Nicole Opferman, who started at the off guard last season, has been practicing at the point, and will be a stable option for the Mountain Lions when McNeally is not in the game. Opferman was the only Mountain Lion who had more assists than turnovers in 2002-03. Freshman Trisha Terhar, who holds her high schoolâ€TMs single season assists record, has also practiced and saw time at the point in the teamâ€TMs two exhibition games. Terhar could also see time at the 2 or the 3 off the bench.

Opferman will likely play some at the 2 as well. She will be joined there by juco-transfer Janine Ota. Ota started last season for Otero Junior College, helping them to win the second straight sub-regional title. Mackenzie Knobbe, who played in 26 games last season, and Dolly Fiedelman, a freshman who was named All-Conference at Breckenridge High School, will provide much-needed depth.

Sauter will play the majority of the minutes at the small forward position. She enters her sophomore year after putting up some of the best numbers of any freshman in school history in 2002-03. One of the best pure-shooters in the conference, Sauter has the possibility of erupting for 25 points on any given night. Junior college transfer Michele Kipp will play small forward as well. Kipp, who transferred from Mount San Jacinto, plays tenacious defense and hits the boards well.

As it did last year, CU-Colorado Springs will shuffle four players through the two posts positions. Megan McGee, the teamâ€TMs second leading scorer last season will see most of the time at the power forward spot. McGee has is a solid rebounder and has the ability to shoot the ball well from the outside. Christina Merritt will play both the 4 and the 5 depending on the opponentsâ€TM size. Merritt played an average of 15.6 minutes per game last season and, after improving her shot this past offseason, that number will likely go up.

Elise Hazelwood will be the teamâ€TMs starting center. Hazelwood has good post moves and can hit the mid range jumper. Julie Richards, who missed much of preseason practice with a stress fracture in her leg, is still working herself back into the flow of the game. Richards gives the Mountain Lions an intimidating shot blocker and also has touch from long range. Courtney Wallace, who saw action in 15 games last year, will make the move inside this year. Wallace scored in both exhibition games. Dawn Ausmus, who played alongside Ota at Otero, will also play the post.

Even with the enhanced depth and each position Fletcher knows that the Mountain Lions still have room to improve.

“We have got to shoot the ball a higher percentage from the floor, we have to capitalize on the turnovers we force and have to do a better job not turning the ball over ourselves,” said Fletcher. “If we can do that we are going to be successful.”

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

BJ McNeallyBJ McNeally10GJr.
B.J. McNeallyB.J. McNeally10GSr.
Courtney WallaceCourtney Wallace13FSo
Courtney WallaceCourtney Wallace13FFr.
Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FFr.
Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FSo
Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FJr.
Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FSr.
Christina MerrittChristina Merritt23FFr.
Christina MerrittChristina Merritt23FSo
Nicole OpfermanNicole Opferman30GSo.
Nicole OpfermanNicole Opferman30GJr
Nicole OpfermanNicole Opferman30GSr.
Elise HazlewoodElise Hazlewood31CJr.
Elise HazelwoodElise Hazelwood31CSr
Mackenzie KnobbeMackenzie Knobbe33GSo
Mackenzie KnobbeMackenzie Knobbe34GFr.
Mackenzie KnobbeMackenzie Knobbe33GJr.
Mackenzie KnobbeMackenzie Knobbe33GJr.
Julie RichardsJulie Richards40CSo
Julie RichardsJulie Richards40CFr.
Julie RichardsJulie Richards40CJr.
Julie RichardsJulie Richards40CSr.
Dawn AusmusDawn Ausmus22FSr
Trisha TerharTrisha Terhar32GSr
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