March 15, 2006
For the eighth straight season, and the 11th time in the past 12 years, the West Coast Conference will be represented by multiple teams in the postseason. Pepperdine will compete in the NCAA Tournament, while Santa Clara received a bid to the WNIT.
Pepperdine captured the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by defeating Santa Clara in the WCC Tournament championship game on March 5, 71-67. The Waves received a No. 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will meet No. 2 seed Oklahoma in first round play on March 18 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. Pepperdine and the Sooners will meet for the fourth time and the first time since the 2003-04 season. All three of the previous meetings have been in Malibu, with Oklahoma holding a narrow 2-1 advantage.
The Waves will be making the program's fourth NCAA Tournament appearance, having participated the "Big Dance" in 2000, 2002, and 2003. Pepperdine will appear in the postseason for the sixth time in the past seven seasons, having earned bids to the WNIT in 2000-01 and 2003-04. Head Coach Julie Rousseau is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament, making four trips to the tournament while as an assistant coach at Stanford, including a run to the "Elite Eight" in 2004.
Pepperdine is led by All-WCC selections Daphanie Kennedy and Jasmane Clarendon, as well as the 2005-06 WCC Defensive Player of the Year Kelsey Ball. Kennedy is the team's top scorer at 12.0 points per game, and earned WCC Tournament MVP honors after leading the Waves to three straight victories in Spokane, WA. Clarendon leads the team in rebounding with 6.9 boards per contest, and was named to the WCC all-tournament team. Freshman Jessica Ross was named to the WCC all-freshman team after finishing the season as one of the top freshman performers in the league.
The Waves are 2-2 against teams in this year's tournament field, having registered wins over UC Riverside and Southern, while losing to UCLA and Michigan State in 2005-06.
2006 Women's NCAA Tournament First Round
Saturday, March 18 (Denver, CO)
No. 15 Pepperdine vs. No. 2 Oklahoma - 10:00 am*
*Televised live on ESPN2
Santa Clara Broncos
Santa Clara received a bid to the postseason Women's National Invitational Tournament, earning entry to the newly-expanded 40-team field after capturing a share of the WCC regular season title. The Broncos are making the program's eighth postseason appearance in the last nine seasons, with WNIT appearances coming in 2000, 2001, and 2003. This season will mark the fifth postseason WNIT appearance overall for the Broncos, with the 1991 squad reeling off three straight victories to capture the tournament title.
The Broncos will travel to face Oregon State in preliminary round action on Thursday, March 16 at 7:00 pm. Santa Clara is 1-4 all-time against the Beavers, with the last meeting between the two programs coming in 1997. Oregon State posted a 15-14 mark this season and a finished seventh in the Pac-10. Former Bronco Kim Butler, who played at SCU from 2001-03, is OSU's top scorer with 18.7 points per game.
2006 WNIT Preliminary Round
Thursday, March 16 (Corvallis, OR)
Santa Clara at Oregon State - 7:00 pm
Around The WCC
WCC In The Postseason
For the eighth straight season and the 11th time in the past 12 years, the WCC will be represented by multiple teams in the postseason. Pepperdine snagged the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by capturing the WCC Tournament title, while Santa Clara will be appearing in the Women's NIT. The Broncos claimed a share of the WCC regular season title along with Gonzaga after representing the conference in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. The Zags made an appearance in the WNIT last season, after earning an invitation to the 2004 WNIT along with Santa Clara.
WCC Tournament Recap
Pepperdine tied Portland in 1994 and San Diego in 2000 as the lowest seeded squads to capture the WCC Tournament title, as the No. 4 seed Waves reeled off three straight victories to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, WA. In the first conference tournament to be hosted by Gonzaga, Pepperdine knocked off No. 5 seed Saint Mary's in the first round before edging No. 3 seed Loyola Marymount in the semifinals, 59-58. The Waves then proceeded to upset top-seed and WCC regular season co-champion Santa Clara in the championship game, 71-67. Pepperdine's Daphanie Kennedy was tabbed for tournament MVP honors, while teammate Jasmane Clarendon was named to the all-tournament team. Santa Clara's Michelle Cozad and Chandice Cronk joined them on the all-tournament squad along with USF's Dominique Carter.
Thursday, March 2
No. 3 Loyola Marymount def. No. 6 San Diego - 61-56
No. 4 Pepperdine def. No. 5 Saint Mary's - 70-58
No. 1 Santa Clara def. No. 8 Portland - 83-77
No. 7 San Francisco vs. No. 2 Gonzaga - 75-67
Saturday, March 4
Semifinal #1: Pepperdine def. Loyola Marymount - 59-58
Semifinal #2: Santa Clara def. San Francisco - 75-65 (OT)
Sunday, March 5
Championship Game: Pepperdine def. Santa Clara 71-67
Santa Clara's Kayla Huss Named WCC Player of the Month For February
Santa Clara's Kayla Huss was named the WCC Player of the Month for February after leading the Broncos to a 6-1 record and helping the team capture a share of the WCC regular season title for the first time since 2001. Huss averaged 13.0 points per game in February to rank seventh in the league, along with 4.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds per contest. The senior also shot 50.0% from beyond the arc, sinking 18-of-36 from three-point land and averaged 2.57 3-pointers per game to lead the conference. Her 18 treys also marked a conference-high.
San Francisco Head Coach Mary Hile-Nepfel Resigns
University of San Francisco Head Women's Basketball Coach Mary Hile-Nepfel resigned her position on March 7th, 2006 after leading the program for nineteen seasons. Hile-Nepfel is the winningest coach in the history of the USF women's program, taking her team to 270 career wins. Her 129 career West Coast Conference victories are the most in league history. As a player from 1977 to 1981, she scored 2,324 points, which puts her atop the USF scoring chart for women or men. She was a two-time All-American at USF and twice a finalist for the Wade Trophy, awarded to the nation's top collegiate player. She returned to the Hilltop as Co-Head Coach along with her husband Bill in 1987. Along with Bill she took USF to three straight NCAA tournaments in 1995, 1996 and 1997, with the 1996 team the only West Coast Conference team to advance to the NCAA "Sweet Sixteen." Hile-Nepfel took over as the sole head coach in 2000.
WCC Team Notes
Gonzaga Bulldogs (16-14 / 11-3 WCC)
- Gonzaga fell to San Francisco in the first round of the WCC Tournament, marking the first home loss by the Zags to a conference opponent since the McCarthey Athletic Center opened in 2004-05.
- Stephanie Hawk nearly doubled her career blocks total, leading the WCC with 44 blocks this season. Hawk moved into a tie for sixth on the Gonzaga career blocks list with 90.
- Jami Bjorklund became the first Zag since 1992-93 to be named to the WCC all-freshmen team.
- The Zags won a share of the WCC regular season title, marking the second straight season and the third time in program history that Gonzaga has claimed a conference crown.
- Gonzaga led the WCC in scoring defense, surrendering just 60.8 points per game.
Loyola Marymount Lions (17-12 / 10-4 WCC)
- Loyola Marymount topped San Diego in the first round of the WCC Tournament, but fell to Pepperdine in the semifinals, 59-58.
- Ashlee Dunlap led the conference with 10.2 rebounds per contest, becoming the first Lion since Nicole Gaines in 1996 to lead the league in rebounding. Dunlap also set the LMU program record with 295 boards on the season.
- Amanda Patton, an All-WCC honorable mention selection, enjoyed a breakout season from beyond the arc. Patton broke teammate Rachael Ziemann's year-old mark for 3-pointers with 67 treys to finish second in the conference.
- Ziemann became LMU's all-time leader in three-pointers made, knocking down 31 treys on the season to bring her career total to 126. Ziemann broke the previous record of 118 set by former Lion standout Bryn Britton.
Pepperdine Waves (14-16 / 8-6 WCC)
- Pepperdine won its third WCC Tournament title, reeling off three straight victories in Spokane to capture the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. After topping Saint Mary's in the first round, the Waves edged LMU by one point in the semifinals before knocking off top-seed Santa Clara in the championship game.
- Daphanie Kennedy was tabbed for WCC Tournament MVP honors after scoring 47 points in three games, and hitting the winning shot against the Broncos. Kennedy is averaging a team-high 12.0 points per game.
- Pepperdine is making its fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament, and its sixth post-season appearance in the last seven seasons.
- The Waves are 2-2 against teams in this year's NCAA Tournament field, registering victories over UC Riverside and Southern, while falling to UCLA and Michigan State.
Portland Pilots (4-24 / 1-13 WCC)
- The Pilots fell to top seed Santa Clara in the first round of the WCC Tournament, ending the season on a nine-game skid.
- Whitney Grant, a first team All-WCC selection, finished the regular season ranked second in the league in scoring, averaging 15.2 points per contest in her senior campaign. Grant also dished out 91 assists on the season, putting her into a tie for sixth on the Portland career list with 401.
- Rachel Warren led the conference in blocked shots with 1.50 blocks per game, becoming the first Pilot since Wendy Toonen in 1997 to lead the conference in blocks.
- Jennifer Wassom set the Portland single-game record for 3-pointers made, sinking seven treys against Cal State Northridge on December 21.
Saint Mary's Gaels (12-16 / 7-7 WCC)
- Saint Mary's wrapped up its season with a loss to Pepperdine in the first round of the WCC Tournament, marking the fourth straight season that the Gaels have been knocked out in the first round.
- Jontelle Smith finished the season as the WCC's top scoring freshman, averaging a team-high 11.9 points per game to rank eighth in the conference.
- Saint Mary's led the conference with a .368 3-point field goal percentage in WCC games. The Gaels were paced from beyond the arc by Maija Lahde, who tied for fourth in the league with a .412 3-point field goal percentage in WCC contests.
- Serena Benavente and Monica Mertle both came back from injury redshirt seasons to produce for the Gaels in 2005-06. Mertle averaged 10.5 points per game to rank second on the team, while Benavente ranked second in the league with a 1.38 assist/turnover ratio.
San Diego Toreros (9-19 / 4-10 WCC)
- San Diego fell to Loyola Marymount in the first round of the WCC Tournament, 61-56.
- Tiara Harris scored 20 points in the loss to LMU, finishing her career in sixth place on the USD career points list with 1,150. Harris was the league's top scorer in WCC contests with 17.0 points per game in her senior campaign, becoming the first Torero to ever pace the circuit in scoring in conference games.
- Polly Dong dished out a team-high 84 assists on the season to bring her career assist total to 415 and put her in second place on the San Diego career chart. Dong also moved into second place on the USD career steals list with 178.
- The Toreros paced the WCC with an average of 10.43 steals per contest, led by Amanda Rego's league-high 3.57 steals per game.
San Francisco Dons (9-20 / 4-10 WCC)
- San Francisco registered an upset victory over No. 2 seed Gonzaga in the first round of the WCC Tournament before falling to Santa Clara in the semifinals, 75-65.
- Head Coach Mary Hile-Nepfel resigned from her position on March 7 after 19 years at the helm on the Hilltop. Hile-Nepfel, who coached for 13 seasons with husband Bill Nepfel, retired as the league's winningest coach in conference history with 129 victories in WCC games.
- Dominique Carter earned WCC all-tournament team honors, becoming the first Don since 1997 to earn all-tournament accolades. Carter led San Francisco with 13.9 points per game, finished second on the team with 5.2 rebounds per contest.
- LaShaunte Stephens came on strong down the stretch for the Dons, scoring 21 points in USF's win over Gonzaga at the WCC Tournament.
Santa Clara Broncos (19-11 / 11-3 WCC)
- Santa Clara received a bid to the WNIT after claiming a share of the WCC regular season title. The Broncos will be making the program's 11th postseason appearance, and fifth appearance in the WNIT.
- Michelle Cozad became the first Bronco since Lisa Sacco in 1998 to earn the WCC Player of the Year honor. Cozad was the only player in the conference to rank among the top-six in the league in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals. The senior averaged 18.2 points per game, and is the first SCU player to lead the WCC in scoring since Christine Silvernail in 1994.
- The Broncos rank first in the nation with an average of 8.6 3-pointers per contest. Chandice Cronk ranks sixth in the country with a 45.8 3-point field goal percentage.
- Santa Clara was the top scoring team in the WCC this season, averaging 73.7 points per contest to rank 17th in Division I.