Nov. 3, 2011
LONG BEACH - Long Beach State will bring a new look into the upcoming season with only four letterwinners returning from last year's squad. LBSU has nine players who have yet to see the court in a 49er uniform.
Despite the youth and inexperience on the roster, the 2011-12 edition of the Long Beach State women's basketball team has the talent and attitude to get the program back to its winning ways.
"There is a significant challenge ahead of us, but we have girls here with the right attitude and mind set," third-year head coach Jody Wynn said. "This group brings passion, energy and effort to the court, which has been really refreshing to see.
"We also have a lot of versatility on the floor with a handful of young ladies who can play multiple positions," Wynn added. "I think that collectively, we shoot the ball much better this year and our understanding of the game is a lot higher."
In 2010-11, the 49ers struggled to an 8-23 overall record with three freshmen thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries. LBSU fought through the adversity, however, and made huge strides throughout the year, defeating preseason favorite UC Davis and defending Big West Tournament champion UC Riverside during the regular season. The 49ers are looking to build off that experience and with the addition of a number of highly touted recruits, the sky is the limit for this squad.
"I think this year will be an opportunity for us to turn the corner and seriously contend for a Big West championship," said Wynn. "Obviously we are very young, but the caliber of players and the culture has changed in a positive direction. Our coaching staff is very pleased with what we have seen this preseason."
Long Beach State may be young, but it has a great amount of depth at the guard position. Fighting for the starting point guard spot will be redshirt freshman Alex Sanchez, redshirt junior Jhakia McDonald and sophomore transfer Hallie Meneses.
Sanchez sat out her freshman year with a foot injury, but has been cleared to play this season. She was a two-time first-team all-state and All-CIF selection at Troy High School.
"Alex is a natural leader who is very vocal," said Wynn. "She is an excellent passer and can also shoot the three."
McDonald also redshirted last year after transferring to LBSU from Fullerton College. She played one year for the Hornets, leading them to an Orange Empire Conference title and an appearance in the state championship game.
"Jhakia has a high basketball IQ and knows how to run a team," Wynn said. "She understands the point guard position in the sense that she is a very good facilitator."
Meneses is in her first year at Long Beach State. She played one season at the City College of San Francisco where she garnered All-Coast Conference honors and was named to the All-State Women's Tournament Team after guiding the Rams to the finals.
"Hallie is a pure point guard," said Wynn. "She can shoot the ball, but she is a pass-first kid who loves to distribute. She changes her speed really well and has the ability to see things progressing on the court."
Dooley has been cleared to play after having multiple surgeries during her freshman campaign. She was a two-time first-team All-CIF and first-team All-Olympic League selection at Montclair Prep.
"Chantel is a lock-down defender," Wynn said. "She is so strong, has very quick feet and really improved her 3-point shooting during her redshirt season. She has had a year to learn our system and she is ready to go now."
Balthazar lettered two years at Desert Vista High School in Arizona before moving to Los Angeles where she attended Santa Monica High School as a senior.
"Bianka is our utility player who can play all five positions for us," Wynn said. "She can do a little bit of everything and we are looking for big things from her."
Spargo comes to the 49ers from Valencia High School where she garnered first-team All-Foothill League and All-Santa Clarita Valley honors. She averaged 14.7 points per game in 2010-11.
"Lauren has a fantastic work ethic," said Wynn. "She is a very good athlete and can shoot the three. She is just a freshman but she has a lot of potential and we are excited about her future here at Long Beach State."
Skorpen hails from Norway where she has been a member of the national program since 2008. She also played four years for Asker High School.
"Sigrid runs the floor very well and she can get to the basket," Wynn said. "She is a strong off-guard who plays with a lot of power."
Lottinville is in her third year as a walk-on at Long Beach State. Despite seeing limited time on the court, Lottinville has been a threat from beyond the arc for the 49ers.
"Sarah is a fantastic shooter," said Wynn. "She also has an unbelievable work ethic. She wants to make a positive impact on this program and she works tirelessly on her game."
Moorer is the 49ers' top returning scorer after averaging 7.7 points per game last year. She reached double figures in scoring 10 times with a season-high 15 points against Prairie View A&M.
"Tipesa is on a mission and she understands that this is her final opportunity to play Division I basketball," Wynn said. "She has worked extremely hard during the offseason and has done a really nice job of being a leader for this young group."
Clark will also bring valuable experience to the court as a returning starter. The London native established an LBSU freshman record with 55 blocks last year, while also averaging 6.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest.
"Ella was probably our most improved player last year," said Wynn. "She also had a fantastic summer playing internationally and has reported back to us with more confidence. She has embraced a leadership role and we are all very excited to see how she progresses this year."
Also back for the 49ers is sophomore Sendy Valles, who saw valuable playing time at both the forward and guard positions last year. Valles averaged 4.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game and registered a career-high 24 points in a win over UC Irvine.
"Sendy is one of those kids who can play multiple positions," Wynn said. "She wants to make a positive impact to the program and because of that desire, her work ethic is great."
Entering the mix will be junior transfer Mary Ochiltree. Ochiltree played two years at Everett Community College in Everett, Wash. She was a first-team All-NWAACC Northern Region selection after averaging 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per outing as a sophomore.
"Mary brings maturity to the court," said Wynn. "She is a very competitive young lady, is a fantastic shooter and she will help us on the boards as well."
Long Beach State has high hopes for incoming freshman Devin Hudson. The 6-foot-3 post player was an all-league and all-valley selection at Colony High School in Ontario, Calif. As a senior she led the Mt. Baldy League in rebounding at 7.6 boards per game, while also ranking second in scoring (17.4 ppg).
"Devin is a high-energy young lady who just wants to learn," Wynn said. "We expect her to make an impact on the boards both offensively and defensively. She has a very bright future and we are excited to have her in our program."
Long Beach State faces another tough preseason schedule in preparation for its Big West Conference slate which begins in December.
"I think that we have great balance in our schedule," said Wynn. "It will give us the opportunity to form our identity and it will help us prepare for the challenges in the Big West."
The 49ers face an immediate home test when they entertain Utah Valley in their season opener at the Walter Pyramid on Nov. 11. LBSU then hits the road for eight of its next nine games, with trips to BIG EAST foe Syracuse and Pac-12 opponents Washington and Arizona, included in that span.
Long Beach State will then return home to face Dartmouth before hosting the second annual Beach Classic Presented by Residence Inn/Courtyard Marriott Long Beach.
The 49ers then open conference action with three consecutive home contests, beginning with UC Riverside on Dec. 29.
The quarterfinals of the Big West Tournament are set to be held at campus sites on March 6. The semifinals and finals will then take place at the Honda Center in Anaheim on March 9 and 10.
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