Women’s basketball begin new season

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

The leaves are falling. The football season is winding down, and thoughts of looming final exams and seven-page term papers are beginning to cause sleepless nights for many students. It all adds up to one thing: the basketball season is upon us.

The Utah women’s basketball season gets underway against UC Irvine at the Huntsman Center tonight.

The Utes are heading into the year shorthanded. With nine healthy players on the roster, the Utes don’t have enough players to play five-on-five.

“I actually like that we don’t have very many players,” said junior guard Morgan Warburton. “I think it’s good because everybody gets a chance to play.”

Warburton represents the players’ viewpoint. From the coaches’ perspective, having nine players suit up for practice every day causes problems.

“It’s not the best practice scenario,” said head coach Elaine Elliott. “It’s a little tougher practice-wise. We have to kind of get some help from our grey guys (male practice squad).”

Nobody close to the program wants to even think the dreaded “I” word. If the team is hit with any injuries, Plan B might get ugly.

The situation was brought on after four players quit the team following last season.

The nine remaining healthy players who make up the Utes will take the court in their first regular-season game tonight against the Anteaters.

Sophomore forward Kalee Whipple believes that after cruising past two tiny schools in exhibitions that the team is ready to go.

“Our team learned who plays what role in the exhibitions,” Whipple said. “We haven’t really played with each other before. It’s kind of a whole new team like it was last year, so now we understand each other a little better.”

Whipple sees pros and cons to having such a small team.

“Practices are definitely a lot tougher because you’re doing a lot more reps,” Whipple said.

The Utes hope to improve on last year’s disappointing finish.

After starting last year’s Mountain West Conference with seven straight wins, the Utes fell into a slump, dropping all the way to a fifth-place finish. The Utes upset TCU in the first round of the MWC tournament before falling to BYU in the second round.

“Last year was a learning and growing year,” Whipple said. “It was disappointing because the ultimate goal is always the NCAA tournament.”

The Utes were left out of last year’s big dance.

Elliott said she believes that the Utes have a realistic shot at an MWC championship even though they were picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll.

“I think we can compete for the championship,” Elliott said. “At least four other teams in our league have a chance. It’s really been wide open the past couple of years. It’s been anybody’s game until the last week. It’s a good thing for the league. We’ve had a lot of teams raise their programs to a high level.”

The season tips off at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.

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