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Women's Basketball Opens Season at Cal

Nov. 9, 2006

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WHAT'S ON SCHEDULE: The Saint Mary's women's basketball team opens the 2006-07 season on the road when they make the short trip to Berkeley, CA to face California at 2:05 p.m. on Sunday, November 12. Sunday's game will be the season opener for both teams.

WHO'S HOT: Saint Mary's freshman Jontelle Smith led the Gaels in their exhibition game on Friday night against Love and Basketball. Smith had 14 points, including going 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Smith played a team-high 29 minutes in the loss. Smith also added two assists and one 3-pointer.

SAINT MARY'S VERSUS CALIFORNIA: The Gaels are 5-7 all-time versus the Bears. The last time the two teams met in 2004, the Gaels lost 59-52 at the Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, CA. Saint Mary's had won five straight games against the Bears, before falling in 2004.

THE LAST TIME OUT: Saint Mary's opened up the 2006-07 season with an exhibition game against Love and Basketball last week. The Gaels dropped the game 88-77 in Paul Thomas' first game as head coach, but all players and fans were excited about the opening game.Saint Mary's was led offensively by Jontelle Smith, who scored 14 points in her first game as a sophomore. Sheridan Arredondo scored 13 points and grabbed three rebounds, Maija Lahde had 11 points and Monica Mertle added 10 points.As a team the Gaels shot 51.5 percent in the second half from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc. As a team the Gaels shot 72 percent from the free throw line.

Paul Thomas NAMED HEAD COACH: Saint Mary's Director of Athletics Mark Orr announced on August 9, 2006, the hiring of Paul Thomas as the new head women's basketball coach at Saint Mary's College. Thomas becomes the eighth head coach in the program's 28-year history."We are extremely excited to add Paul Thomas to the Saint Mary's community," Orr said. "We had a very competitive pool of applicants; however the search committee felt Paul was the best hire. Paul fits everything we were looking for and we can't wait to get started."Thomas joins Saint Mary's after serving as head women's coach at Cal Poly Pomona for the past 12 seasons. Thomas led Cal Poly Pomona to back-to-back NCAA Division II National Championships in 2001 and 2002."I'm very excited for this opportunity," Thomas said. "This is an opportunity for me and my family to be aligned with an institution that has the same philosophies and background that we do."While at Cal Poly Pomona, Thomas reached the Sweet Sixteen four out of the last seven seasons, won five California Collegiate Athletic Association champions and was named the NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year and NCAA District 8 Coach of the Year in 2002.After 12 seasons, Thomas' overall record was 235-108 (.685), and was 115-32 (.782) over the past five seasons, which included three conference championships and two national titles.

SEASON OUTLOOK: The Saint Mary's women's basketball team enters the 2006-07 season full of energy and excitement thanks to new head coach Paul Thomas. The Gaels are coming off a 12-16 overall season in 2005-06 and a 7-7 West Coast Conference finish, but return a bulk of talent from last year and will incorporate a new system in 2006-07. Saint Mary's returns eight players from last season and four starters return to the squad.Saint Mary's also has the luxury of returning their top four scorers from last season in Jontelle Smith, Monica Mertle, Maija Lahde and Sheridan Arredondo. The Gaels also return All-West Coast Conference Honorable Mention selections Smith, Mertle, Lahde and Serena Benavente and Smith was also named to the WCC All-Freshman Team.

SHAUGHNESSY RETURNS TO SMC: Saint Mary's is glad to see junior Lauren Shaughnessy return to the roster in 2006-07. Shaughnessy, who started for over a season and a half for the Gaels, returns after taking a year off in 2005-06. Shaughnessy will add depth to the guard position and will help with the up-tempo style of play for Saint Mary's.

THREE NEWCOMERS JOIN THE ROSTER: Saint Mary's welcomes three new players to the squad in 2006-07. The Gaels welcome freshmen Lindsay Ellis, from Sacramento, CA and Kira Kojola, from Espoo, Finland, along with junior college transfer Mattiana Thalley, from Carson CA and Compton Community College.

SAINT MARY'S PICKED TO FINISH FIFTH IN WCC: The Gaels were picked to finish fifth in the West Coast Conference in 2006-07. The Gaels finished in fifth place last year, but return four starters and bring in a new head coach in Paul Thomas. Saint Mary's received 28 points, five points behind Santa Clara for fourth. Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount were picked to finish first and Gonzaga was picked to finish third. San Diego, San Francisco and Portland rounded out the final eight.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE GAELS: Saint Mary's returns to Moraga to host Miami University and open its home schedule on Friday, November 17 at 7:05 p.m. The Gaels will begin a stretch of four straight home games.