Nov. 2, 2007
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The 2007-08 University of San Diego women's basketball season will be much like a new season of a popular television series. Each season, a television show has the same name and airs on the same network but often introduces new characters and new storylines. While the premise and main characters of the show remain the same from year to year, each season is filled with new adventures, new drama and a whole lot of entertainment.
Over the years, USD women's basketball has provided many chills and thrills. It's a storyline that seems to get better and better with each season. While the past two seasons have been vastly different, with the 2005-06 squad, Fisher's first season at the helm, posting a 9-19 mark, then this past season, USD posted the biggest turn around in program history, a 12-game improvement to finish 21-9, the program's first-20 win season. Each season had its' own cast of players who created their own storylines and style of play. Gone from last season's record-setting team are defensive specialist Ashley Voisinet and Sabine Loewe, but USD's cupboard is far from bare.
Highlighting the returners for the Toreros this season will be the defending West Coast Conference Co-Player of the Year, Amanda Rego. Rego became the first player in the history of the program to take home conference Player of the Year honors, after leading the nation with 8.1 assists per game. Rego set a new program single-season record with 230 assists, and steals with 80.
"I know that with Rego being a senior, she wants to end her career on a high note and she definitely wants to win a championship here and go to the NCAA tournament," stated Fisher.
Another key returner for the Toreros will be the return of first-team All-WCC performer Amber Sprague. Sprague returns after leading the team with a 14.8 points per game average and team-leading 7.9 rebounds per game. Sprague also ranked in the conference's top-three in both scoring (14.6 ppg-3rd) and rebounding (7.9 rpg-2nd).
"Amber has made such a big step in the off-season. She has become a stronger leader, more vocal, and I think Amber will have a breakout type year," said Fisher.
Another All-WCC performer who returns is sophomore forward Morgan Henderson. As a freshman she played a huge role in helping lead USD to a 20-win season. Henderson averaged 8.6 points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game, not to mention becoming a huge threat from beyond the arc, as she tallied the second most threes on the team with 33.
A blow to the Toreros was the loss of junior guard Kelly Winther to the season with an injury, but coach Fisher and her staff are confident that several players can step up and fill Winther's role. One of those players is junior Kiva Herman. Herman became another weapon in the USD arsenal this past season as she had flashes of brilliance, dropping in a career-high 17 points in a win against Saint Mary's. For the season, Herman averaged 5.4 points per game as well as 2.7 rebounds.
Along with the slashing Herman, senior guard Alcha Strane expects to have a breakout type of year. Strane is known for her sharp shooting and with her on the court along with Rego, USD can do some interesting things with one running the break and the other on the wing. In her first season in a Torero uniform, Strane averaged 1.3 points per game and had 10 assists. Fisher and her staff are confident those numbers will rise in her senior campaign.
Fisher is confident that the Toreros' post game could develop into one of the strongest in the WCC. Along with Sprague, junior Kaila Mangrum makes her return for the Toreros for year three. Mangrum is a big and strong player, who has done a lot of work over the off-season improving her offensive skills. Her defensive skills came in big for USD down the stretch this past season and coach Fisher only expects her to grow from last season. As a sophomore, Mangrum averaged 1.0 points per game and 1.7 rebounds per game.
The coaching staff is also excited about redshirt freshman Erica Carlson. Carlson, a 6-4 Tucson, Ariz. native, was a first-team All-4A Sonoran League honoree her senior season at Canyon Del Oro High School. As a senior, she averaged a double-double with 14.6 points per game and 12.9 rebounds per game.
The remaining two returners for the Toreros, Hannah Morgenstern and Sarah VanderHorst, will not play this season, as each has suffered a season-ending injury. VanderHorst averaged 1.3 points and 0.7 rebounds per game in 2006-07. Morgenstern used her redshirt last season and VanderHorst will use her redshirt season this year.
The coaching staff is excited about this recruiting class. Highlighting the freshman is forward Sam Child from Portland, Ore. Child was tabbed as the Oregonian's Class 6A girls State Player of the Year as a senior. During her senior season, she set eight school records, including the single-season records for points (526), field goals made (212) and steals (96) and she finished her career as the second leading scorer in school history with 1,139 points.
Another newcomer expected to see time on the court is Brianna Estell from Perris, Calif. Estell comes to USD after a stand-out career at Perris High School. As a senior, she averaged 15 points and 10 assists per game en route to an All-CIF distinction. She was also nominated as a McDonald's All-American during her senior season.
"Brianna Estell and Sam Child are going to be asked to play right away as freshman and probably play a lot of minutes," stated Fisher. "They are both very talented and athletic players, who love the game, love the sport and are in here all the time getting extra shots. They understand that this is a big opportunity for them and they are willing to do what ever it takes to get in that spot."
Another freshman who the coaches are excited about is Emily Hatch from Portland, Ore. Hatch earned an All-State honorable mention as both a junior and senior and also earned a McDonald's All-American nomination as a senior.
"Emily Hatch is just a warrior. She is one of the strongest, fastest players I have ever coached," stated Fisher. "She has a big strong body and she is very fast. She is great in the low paint and can really shoot the three."
The final newcomer to the Toreros will be a sophomore transfer from Colorado State University, Nya Mason. Torero fans will have to wait until the 2008-09 season to see her in action per NCAA transfer rules. Mason was a stand-out high school player at St. Mary's Academy in Portland, Ore. Mason was named Mt. Hood Conference Player of the Year in 2006 and first team All-Conference in 2005 and 2006 while averaging 22.3 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. This past season at CSU, she played in 25 games, averaging 4.1 points per games, 2.2 rebounds per game and recorded 14 blocks on the season.
With all of this talent in coach Fisher's arsenal, the Toreros will look to have a challenging schedule ahead of them. Games that highlight the Toreros' schedule are home contests against UCLA and a possible rematch with Texas in the Maggie Dixon Surf N Slam Classic. USD will also square against an always strong Appalachian State team in the first game of the Maggie Dixon Surf 'N Slam Classic and will take an east coast road swing to a tournament held by Seton Hall.
After a January 6 game against UC Irvine, the Toreros will open West Coast Conference play. For the first time in program history, USD was tabbed as the favorite to win the conference in a preseason coaches poll. Coach Fisher feels her non-conference schedule will help prepare the Toreros for WCC play.
After a two-year stint in the Pacific Northwest, San Diego will once again play host to the WCC's biggest event of the year, the WCC Basketball Championships.
"I am ecstatic that the WCC championships will be held on our home court this year," stated Fisher. "We couldn't ask for a better situation for our seniors Amanda Rego and Alcha Strane. This is a great opportunity for our seniors to closeout their senior campaign on their home floor.