OREM, Utah – With 10 letterwinners and three starters returning from last year's team that went 15-15 and finished second in the Great West Conference, 18th-year head coach Cathy Nixon likes what she sees from her 2012-13 Utah Valley University women's basketball team.
"It's been a successful preseason for us so far and we feel like we are in a good place to begin the season," Nixon said. "We feel like we have a talented team that can win some games."
One of UVU's returners this season is senior forward Sammie Jensen. Jensen is the reigning GWC Player of the Year as she averaged a double-double of 13.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last season. Behind Jensen, the Wolverines' also welcome back junior shooting guard Whitney Jenkins, who was an All-Conference Honorable Mention selection last year after averaging 6.1 ppg. Jenkins also led the team in steals in 2011-12 with 34.
Utah Valley also welcomes back five other seniors in point guard Cydne Gray (formerly Mason), combo guard Alle Finch Cardwell (formerly just Finch), forward Kaycee Mansfield, forward Kyra Prause and center Tasha Sanborn. The Wolverines also return four sophomores in forward Jessica Bachynski, guard Taylor Huber, guard Ashley Klemz and guard Tina Doughty, who redshirted last year after transferring to UVU from New Mexico.
"Sammie (Jensen) has been so consistent since she got here and we also return key players in Whitney (Jenkins), Alle (Finch Cardwell), Kaycee (Mansfield) and Cydne (Gray). But we are relatively inexperienced at the five-spot," Nixon said. "In all, we have a good core of kids that bring back some experience and have been successful at this level. However, it's going to take us some time for them to gel together with the kids that haven't played as much in the past."
Nixon welcomes in six newcomers this season. They are: senior center Sarah Clement, a former UVU volleyball player from Lindon, Utah/Pleasant Grove HS; sophomore transfer Katie Kuklok, who recently transferred from San Diego and is from Poway, Calif./Poway HS; and freshmen Georgia Agnew (Hamilton, New Zealand/Salem Hills HS) Talyn Bevell, (Cedar Hills, Utah/Lone Peak HS), Karlee Kartchner (Hyrum, Utah/Mountain Crest HS) and Sam Loggins (Boise, Idaho/Mountain View HS). Nixon is planning on redshirting Agnew this season and Kuklok has to due to NCAA transfer regulations.
"I think Tina Doughty has the ability to be a player who will influence games right from the first part of the season," Nixon said. "Jessica Bachynski has also had a good preseason and we feel like she brings an offensive element that we're excited about. Sam Loggins potentially will make an impact on both sides of the floor for us too but has very little experience so it might take some time to integrate her into the system."
Nixon also likes her team's chances in its final year of play in the Great West, as UVU will join the Western Athletic Conference next year.
"We want to be successful in the Great West and win both the regular season and the tournament championship," Nixon said. "We obviously also want to be successful in our pre-conference games and it will take that for it to be able to carry over to our conference games. We're looking to build off of the momentum that we had last year and we feel like it will help us put together a good season."
The Wolverines will open the season Friday at 7 p.m. at home against Boise State. The Broncos went 15-16 last season and finished sixth in the Mountain West with a 5-9 record.
After Friday's opener, UVU will remain home and welcome in-state rival Utah State to the UCCU Center on Monday at 7 p.m. That game will be televised live locally on UVUTV.
"We'll be tested right out of the chute as we host Boise State and Utah State back-to-back," Nixon said. "We look like we've gelled together enough to put together good performances against them."
After the two home contests, the Wolverines travels to the Bay Area to take on San Jose State (Nov. 15), Santa Clara (Nov. 17) and Sacramento State (Nov. 20). UVU then returns to Orem to host Long Beach State during Thanksgiving break (Nov. 23) and closes out the month on the road at Tulsa (Nov. 29) and South Dakota (Dec. 1).
UVU then hosts in-state foes Weber State on Dec. 4 and Southern Utah on Dec. 6 before busing to Pocatello, Idaho, for a date with Idaho State on Dec. 8. The Wolverines then travel to Flagstaff, Ariz., to face Northern Arizona on Dec. 15, host Carroll College on Dec. 19 and finishes its pre-Christmas schedule at Colorado of the Pac-12 Conference on Dec. 22. The Wolverines once again take on Southern Utah this time in Cedar City during the holiday break (Dec. 29) and begin the New Year at Air Force on Jan. 2.
UVU begins conference play at home on Jan. 5 against Texas-Pan American and plays home-and-home contests with the four conference schools over the next two months. Utah Valley also plays a home-and-home series with future WAC foe CSU Bakersfield, as well as host Walla Walla University on Feb. 4, and plays at New Orleans on Feb. 14.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit www.WolverineGreen.com.