MONMOUTH — It’s not so much a bunch of no-names as it is a large crop of new-names.
New because the Western Oregon women’s basketball roster is short on college experience and because it is loaded with players who will make their Great Northwest Athletic Conference debut this season.
That, however, gives ninth-year Wolves coach Holli Howard-Carpenter something she likes — depth.
“In the past, we weren’t very deep,” she said. “I think our depth will help us turn the corner.”
Howard-Carpenter sees other things to like and find encouraging about a program that missed last season due to the pandemic and will open this preseason Nov. 16 versus Hawaii Pacific at Lacey, Washington.
She thinks the 2021-22 squad can score more from behind the 3-point line than recent WOU clubs.
It also is “the biggest team we’ve had,” she said. “I feel like we match up size-wise better up front, and we’re bigger at the guard positions as well. We can play big, or we can play small.”
And while the team, at least at this point, lacks a sure shooter/go-to scorer, it could have scoring threats from all positions and balanced scoring night after night.
And it doesn’t hurt that the other GNAC coaches, surely not very familiar with a lot of Western Oregon’s new faces, picked the Wolves for ninth in the 10-team league. Howard-Carpenter sees the conference as highly competitive this season, especially behind favorites Alaska Anchorage and Western Washington.
“We hope being picked ninth gives us that underdog mentality and a chip on our shoulders,” she said.
Howard-Carpenter and her staff have six preseason games and until the Dec. 2 GNAC opener at home against Alaska Fairbanks to identify what works best, nail down starters and choose a rotation from the 16-player roster. Starting spots aren’t likely to be a given, though. “I think our rotation will be bigger this year, and I don’t start the same five every game; our kids earn it based on how they practice,” she said.
Fans can get a close look at the Wolves in a three-game preseason stretch from Nov. 14-20. The first of those games, and the second on WOU’s schedule, is Nov. 14 at Willamette. Then the Wolves will play at home against Chico State on Nov. 19 and versus Sonoma State on Nov. 20.
The preseason concludes with a Texas two-step -- Nov. 24 against Texas A&M-Kingsville and Nov. 26 with Texas A&M International.
To no surprise, the Wolves had no one voted to the GNAC’s 15-player preseason all-league team.
Among their returnees and the six players who have had GNAC action: 5’11 sophomore Meadow Aragon, 6’1 junior Amber Winkler and 6’2 sophomore Alexis Wright. Aragon averaged 4.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 2019-20, Winkler 4.1 points and 4.3 rebounds, and Wright 3.1 points and 1.3 rebounds. Not big numbers, but they did get a good amount of end-game experience as freshmen two years ago,
Also from the sophomore class are 5’9 Cali McClave and 5’3 Jewel “Princy” Paaluhi-Caulk from defunct Concordia in Portland.
The junior class includes 5’5 Tresai McCarver, and 6’0 Makenna Gambee is a fifth-year senior.
Seven freshmen are on the team, including 6’1 Caitlin Wheeler, 5’8 Madisyn Clark and 6’2 Averi Young. Two of the freshmen (5’9 Erika Glenn and 6’1 Kilyn Dawkins) are sidelined with torn ACLs, though. And 5-10 Kylee Arzner is a late arrival after having committed to Colorado State
Western Oregon was 6-21 (3-17 GNAC) two seasons ago and then weren’t able to compete last season.
“Not playing gave us time to work on our games individually. We did a lot of individual and small group work,” Howard-Carpenter said. “I don’t know how that’s going to go – is it better to have game experience or have worked on individual things?”