NWC News Desk
New coach, new look for TrappersPosted by: NWC Athletics — October 29, 2009
Ten Freshmen Hold Key to Beal's First Year at NWC Helm
By Randal Horobik
Tribune Sports Editor
Those searching for a word to sum up the season outlook for Northwest College women's basketball probably won't find a better one to employ. From a new, but familiar, face coaching on the bench to a roster featuring 10 incoming freshmen, there's very little that doesn't scream change in the Trappers' program.
"Our focus has been on today," said Janis Beal, the Northwest College women's basketball scoring leader who has returned now to coach at her alma mater. "We're taking things one day at a time. We're looking to get better today. We're looking to do things better today than we did yesterday."
By process of attrition, Kati Oliverson and Sharla Stevenson are the lone sophomore veterans returning from last year's 12-20 Trapper squad. Oliverson, a 5'11" native of Alpine, Utah, saw action in all of the team's games last season and served as a starter in 15 of those contests. She averaged 4.8 points and pulled down 3.5 rebounds per game. Stevenson, a 5'6" guard from Roy, Utah, saw action in roughly half of Northwest College's games, contributing 2.5 points per appearance.
From there, the Trappers' first-year head coach will turn to the members of her inaugural recruiting class.
"We're young," Beal admits. "We don't have many sophomores to help bring the freshmen along, so we're going to have to have those freshmen step up in a hurry."
Don't confuse a lack of experience with a lack of talent, however. The Trappers have plenty of the latter.
Laura Purina, a 5'8" Latvian guard, has spent the last four years playing for various national teams in the European Championships, never finishing below fourth place on any occasion. Dariana Santos was a late arriving addition to Beal's recruiting class, but at 5'11" will add some size to the lineup.
"She's from the Dominican Republic. She's only been playing ball for about four years," said Beal. "She has a lot of athletic talent."
From there, much of the rest of Beal's recruiting class reflects her familiarity with the state of Utah, where she served as an assistant coach at Snow College before accepting the reins of the NWC position last spring. Six of the remaining eight freshmen on the roster hail from Utah.
Guard Jaime Zogmaister isn't your typical freshman, however. The West Haven, Utah, native is starting college following the completion of a two-year LDS mission and, given the overall youth of the team, is being counted on for her added maturity to help lead the squad.
Orem's Jessica Fisher has the distinction of being the only Trapper listed at six feet on this year's roster. Fisher was a three-year letter winner, a scholar-athlete and all-region honorable mention selection in Utah's largest classification. Another Orem product, Megan Goodman, is also a part of the team, where she'll serve as a 5'8" guard.
Megan Smith, a 5'11" shooter, will reunite with former high school teammate Oliverson after being named female athlete of the year at Lone Pine High School last spring. In addition to being a standout basketball player, Smith also earned all-state honors in track and second team all-state honors in soccer. Her athleticism will factor heavily into Beal's system.
"We want to get up and down the court and play up tempo," said Beal. "Hopefully the kids will always play hard and we'll be fun to watch for the effort we give."
Smith and Oliverson aren't the only former high school teammates reuniting in Trapper uniforms this season. Mckenzie Garrett and Taylor Ryan both played together at Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah. Ryan's future, at 5'11", will likely be in the post area for the Trappers after earning honorable mention all-region honors in high school. Garrett, 5'10", is more of a guard and boasts an appearance in the Utah Women's Basketball Coaches Association all-star contest on her basketball resumé.
Of the remaining two non-Utah freshmen on the Trappers' roster, one will require no introduction to followers of NWC athletics.
Valerie Lesu, freshman libero for the Trapper volleyball team, will join the basketball program as a two-sport college athlete following the conclusion of NWC's volleyball season.
"She'll stay with the volleyball team through the national tournament," Beal said of Lesu's status. "She'll suit up and play for us at home games, like next week's opener, but her focus will be with the volleyball team."
Lesu's basketball strengths include an deft outside shooting touch, her defensive skills and the ability to rebound and play taller than her 5'7" roster height. Rounding out the Northwest College roster is 5'4" Redmond, Wash., freshman Alicia Valentine, a true point guard who, among other honors, was named the most inspirational player on her high school roster.
"The nice thing about junior college basketball is that a lot of things change over the course of one year," said Beal. "We're young, but when you think about it, most schools are bringing in five or six new players every year, so everyone is dealing with a turnaround of athletes. That's just the dynamic of the game and it changes a lot from year to year."
Beal will make her Trapper coaching debut on Tuesday, Nov. 3, when Northwest College tips off the season against Rocky Mountain College. Opening tip is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in Cabre Gym.