The Lady Gaels hoopsters are ready for a strong run at the West Coast Conference championship in 2005-06, thanks to four seniors, two All-WCC Freshman honorees, and three promising newcomers.

Saint Mary’s returns senior guard Brianna Winn, the Gaels’ second leading scorer last season (9.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game). Senior Evynn Van Burger will add scoring punch; she was the Gaels’ third-leading scorer last year, averaging 7.9 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Coaches are excited about the return of redshirt sophomore guard Serena Benavente. Benavente was an All-WCC freshman, averaging 7.6 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Sophomore Mikaela Cowles and newcomers Jontelle Smith and Sierra Chambers will also strengthen the backcourt.

The Lady Gaels also return several experienced frontcourt performers: Seniors Erika Urmonaite and Katie Ludwick; juniors Sheridan Arredondo and Eghosa Obaiza, and junior transfer Victoria Ramirez. Urmonaite started 20 of 23 games last season and averaged 5.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Obaiza played in all 28 games.

Last year’s standout freshman Maija Lahde and 2003-04 All-WCC freshman Monica Mertle also return. Lahde was a great surprise last season, contributing off the bench during the early season before starting eleven games down the stretch. Mertle, who redshirted last season, started 28 of 29 games as a true freshman.

A tough non-conference schedule should prepare the women for West Coast Conference play, which begins January 6.

“I like our home schedule. We have a lot of good local teams coming in and a great Pacific 10 team in Oregon,” Head Coach Michelle Jacoby says. “I think we have a real balanced schedule and we are excited about the season.”

Saint Mary’s non-conference home schedule includes Princeton, Oregon, Southern Utah, UC Davis, Ball State and Sacramento State.

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