Women's basketball season preview

By Doug Fitzgerald published October 13, 2006

To say that the 2006-07 University of Colorado at Colorado Springs womenâ€TMs basketball team is an unknown commodity would be far from profound. After all, only three players return from last seasonâ€TMs team and that trio combined for only 11.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. With those numbers â€" or rather lack of numbers â€" “unknown commodity” should go without saying.

So call me Captain Obvious.

But one thing that would ordinarily also be obvious with such a large turnover is that the Mountain Lions are embarking upon a rebuilding year. That assertion is far less certain.

Nine new faces populate the UCCS roster, but three of those transferred from Division I programs. A fourth led the nation in assists last season while playing at an Illinois junior college.

But what coach Jessika Stratton is most excited about is the teamâ€TMs versatility. Nearly every player on the roster has the ability to contribute at two or more positions.

“With the personnel we have I think weâ€TMre very flexible, very versatile,” said Stratton. “We can run a big lineup and create a physical presence, play a big zone and command the boards. We can run a small lineup and put a lot of pressure on opponentsâ€TM guards and really make them work to get the ball up the floor.”

In addition, this seasonâ€TMs team reflects the personality of its coach. Last season, Stratton guided the Mountain Lions to a 12-16 record and a berth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs. Ironically, Stratton â€" who gained a reputation at Baylor as a tough, in-your-face point guard â€" did so without an in-your-face roster or a real point guard.

Those elements wonâ€TMt be missing this season.

To solve the point guard void, Stratton brought in Stacy LaBuhn, who averaged a nation-best 8.5 assists a season ago at Joliet Junior College. Freshman Janean Jubic, who set school records at Pueblo West High School for assists and 3-pointers made, was added to provide depth now and develop into a starter.

“A true point guard brings an understanding of the game,” said Stratton. “(Sheâ€TMs) always one step ahead of the play and knows where that open player will be without having to think about it.”

The toughness was added at every position. Start in the post, where Tonya Tripp will give UCCS its bull in the china closet. Tripp, who transferred from Division I High Point, has excellent low-post moves to accompany her immense strength. Another D-I transfer, Nancy Hoist from Eastern Kentucky, has the size to play in the low block but is also an excellent shooter. She should create matchup nightmares from her power forward position.

Emily Jenkins, who led the Mountain Lions in rebounding in 2004-05, returns from a year off and will play power forward when UCCS goes small and small forward when the team goes big. Also contributing at small forward will be the third D-I transfer, Candace Thornton. The Northern Colorado transfer has the size and strength to play post defense and also the quickness to neutralize opponents on the perimeter.

Additional depth will come from returning senior Caroline Ottino, a 6-foot forward, and two freshmen, Alex Pitts and Brittany Fortier. Ottinoâ€TMs specialty is post defense, while the 5-foot-11 Pitts has strength (she was recruited by Air Force as a javelin thrower) and a nice mid-range jumper.

“I believe that post play is the key to the game,” said Stratton. “If you can demand attention from the post and your post can score, defenses are going to have to double down. That will open it up for our guards to drive, penetrate and shoot the three.”

Fiedelman will be one of those guards. The teamâ€TMs only returning starter, the senior averaged just 5.9 points per game last season. With a vastly improved jumper added to her already impressive speed, though, Fiedelman could be poised to assume a much bigger role.

Another speedster, Whitney Knobbe, will back up Fiedelman. The sophomore has a knack for offensive rebounds, defense and steals, but must refine her offensive game and ballhandling.

The other wing spot will be filled by Thornton and Jenkins, depending on which matchup Stratton wants to exploit. Another contributor will be freshman Lauren Holm, who shot 41.5 percent from 3-point range as a senior at Dakota Ridge High School.

So how do the Mountain Lions stack up in the highly competitive RMAC? That, unfortunately, falls into the aforementioned “unknown commodity” department. What is known is that UCCS has the size, talent and versatility to improve upon last seasonâ€TMs result â€" perhaps dramatically.

Even Captain Obvious can see that.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Caroline OttinoCaroline Ottino13C/FSr.
Caroline OttinoCaroline Ottino13FSo.
Caroline OttinoCaroline Ottino13FSo.
Whitney KnobbeWhitney Knobbe24G
Whitney KnobbeWhitney Knobbe24G
Tonya TrippTonya Tripp43C
Tonya TrippTonya Tripp43CSr.
Candace ThorntonCandace Thornton23G/FSo.
Candace ThorntonCandace Thornton23G/FJr.
Brittany FortierBrittany Fortier14G/FFr.
Brittany FortierBrittany Fortier14G/FSo.
Alex PittsAlex Pitts21FFr.
Alex PittsAlex Pitts50FSo.
Alex PittsAlex Pitts44FJr.
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