PROVO — BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins has mixed feelings when it comes to his team playing one more season in the Mountain West Conference before jumping to the West Coast Conference in 2011-12.
"It's going to be sad," he said. "My playing and coaching career has been against those (MWC) teams for so long. But I'm kind of excited for the new challenge. I'm excited to play in some areas where we recruit heavily. We have good coaches in the Mountain West, so I'm going into a league where I don't know the coaches and they don't know me. That's kind of exciting a little bit."
With a host of seniors on his squad, Judkins is looking forward to seeing his team contend for a league title for the final time.
"We've waited for this for a long time," he said. "We'd like to leave with a bang, no question. We want to leave the conference as conference champs."
Senior guard Jazmine Foreman, meanwhile, knows she and the other seniors won't be playing in the WCC, so they feel a sense of urgency anyway.
"We want a championship season, no question," she said. "We've strived for a championship every year but this year it's even more important because it's do-or-die. There's no next season. This is it."
The Cougars open the season with an exhibition game against Ft. Lewis College on Nov. 4. BYU opens the regular season on Nov. 13 at national power Duke of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
A year ago, the Cougars were picked to finish sixth in the MWC, but ended up placing second. They posted a 23-10 record and advanced to the Elite Eight of the WNIT.
That strong finish should carry over to this season, Foreman said. "We had never had a postseason until last season. It definitely carries over. We ended up really good last year. We're ready to go."
"It was a real positive thing," Judkins said of his team's WNIT performance.. "My team got to see what the postseason is about. That really helped. I told them the NCAA (Tournament) is a lot better. I'm sure last summer it was motivation for them."
Besides Foreman, BYU returns leading scorer Mindy Bonham (11.1 ppg) and leading rebounder Kristin Riley (5.7 rpg). Also back are Alexis Kaufusi, Coriann Fraughton, Dani Peterson and Haley Hall. Among the newcomers are Stephanie Rovetti, Kim Parker, Jennifer Hamson (a 6-foot-7 freshman out of Pleasant Grove High) and Stephanie Vermunt.
Fraughton has been the first off the bench in her career at BYU, but Judkins said her role will change this season.
"Right now, if Cori's not my best player, she's close," he said. "It's time for her to start."
Judkins said BYU and Utah will continue to play next season when both teams are not longer part of the MWC. The Cougars and Utes will play on the same day at the BYU and Utah men's teams.
Judkins added that he would like to face other familiar MWC foes in the future. "I will miss playing New Mexico and some of those schools with great tradition of playing them. I'll try to schedule them in the preseason."
One thing Judkins won't miss is the trips to places like Laramie and Fort Collins. "Those are hard trips that take a lot out of you during the season," he said. "Your choice — Laramie or Malibu. Not a tough decision. I'm excited for the new challenge."
BYU women's basketball
2000-10 record: 23-10 overall, 11-5 in the MWC
MWC finish: 2nd
Top returning scorer: Mindy Bonham (11.1 ppg)
Top returning rebounder: Kristen Riley (5.7 rpg)
Top returning assist leader: Haley Hall (4.1)
Exhibition opener: vs. Ft. Lewis College, Nov. 4 (7 p.m.)
Regular season opener: at Duke, Nov. 13