The departed

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

The U women’s basketball team suffered a harsh blow last week when four players abruptly quit the team and forfeited their scholarships.

Joh-Teena Filipe, Marie Warner, Brette Ulsaker and Lydia Whitehead announced within days of one another that they would not return to the U next year. Sources close to the team deny that there is any connection between the players’ decisions to leave the team.

“I didn’t even know they were quitting,” said Ulsaker of her teammates’ sudden departure from the team.

She said she made her decision to leave independently of the other three.

For Ulsaker, a freshman, moving from Kansas to Utah was a difficult adjustment.

“I’m just not really happy living here in Utah?it was a lot harder for me being this far away and not being able to see my family and friends.”

Ulsaker said she didn’t decide to leave the team until after the season but was already unhappy with her situation before Christmas.

It’s unclear how four players came to the same conclusion without knowing of the others’ plans. Ulsaker, assistant coach Carolyn DeHoff and teammate Morgan Warburton, who is remaining with the team, maintain that there is no relationship between the players’ decisions.

Head coach Elaine Elliott released the following statement but didn’t go into much further detail: “We have established a great program, and we want to continue moving forward. If anyone within the program is moving in a different direction, it is best for everyone to move on.”

Elliott has never experienced such a mass exodus in her 24-year career. Players have occasionally left the program but never in such a large number, Elliott said.

“Unfortunately, not everyone is a success story,” Elliott said.

Filipe, Warner and Whitehead could not be reached for comment.

“I guess they just weren’t happy. Everything was not what they wanted,” said Warburton, who led the Utes in scoring last season. “It sucks for our team because they contributed a lot?we’re going to have the people that really want to be here.”

According to DeHoff, there was no indication during the season that players were planning to leave.

“It came as a surprise,” DeHoff said.

DeHoff declined to comment on whether there was an effort to keep the players.

“It’s hard to say what it was,” Warburton said. “They felt there was something else they needed to go find.”

The team is handling the loss well, Warburton said.

“In the past couple of weeks, our workouts have been so much fun?Elaine is a really good coach. She’s already made the best of it,” Warburton said. “I think the people that are still here willing to play have grown so close together.”

At least some of the players that left the team have looked into playing at other schools, DeHoff said. Ulsaker said she hopes to play at a Division-II school close to home.

The recent events have left a gaping hole in the lineup. Nearly a third of the team that was expected to return next year, including two starters, is gone. Filipe, Ulsaker and Warner were each key contributors who played significant minutes.

Filipe, a sophomore, started at the power forward position and was a key source of rebounds in the 2006-2007 season.

Ulsaker started at point guard last season. Warner, a backup, was often the first player off the bench. Whitehead saw limited action in her sophomore year.

It is unclear if the players will be replaced.

“We’ll have 10 kids (next year) if we don’t make any other additions,” Elliott said.