Led by fifth-year senior Maija Lahde and sophomore Louella Tomlinson, who set an NCAA record for blocks last season, the women’s basketball team will be very competitive in WCC play, which started on Jan. 8.

With 10 returning players and six freshmen, the team has a good balance, coach Paul Thomas says. Other returning players include senior Jontelle Smith; at press time her playing status was in doubt due to a knee injury early in the season.

“We believe that leadership is very important, and when your peers are doing a good job of leading, your success is better,” Thomas says. “And our six new freshmen — all bring their own little flavor to the team.”

Freshman Ashlee Smith has been particularly strong in pre-conference play, leading all freshmen in scoring and rebounding by mid-December.

“Ashlee has been a great addition to the women’s basketball program,” Thomas says. “She has the versatility we look for. She can run the floor, defend and make baskets from all areas of the court.”

The Gaels struggled in pre-conference play, including falling to Old Dominion in the 2008 World View Classic in Austin, Tex., Indiana and Nevada. But Thomas is optimistic about the team’s chances in WCC play, which will likely see Gonzaga on top and a lot of parity.

“Like always, you control your own destiny,” Thomas says. “We talk every single day about playing hard all the time and about having confidence, which comes from being prepared.

“Everyone is going to have to contribute,” he adds. “We don’t have a superstar.”

The season will be capped by the WCC Championships in Las Vegas from March 6–9.

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