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In It To Win It

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Photo by Holly Magnuson
Junior point guard Sullivan Ziegler led the PacWest in assists during the 2012-13 season.

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Published
November 13, 2013
By
Chris Baker
AZUSA, Calif.-- It took some time to get going, but after a relatively slow start the 2012-13 Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team closed its initial Pacific West Conference season on fire, winning nine of its final 11 league games culminating with a 63-57 upset over No. 24 Grand Canyon, eliminating the Antelopes shot at a conference title while ushering in a new contender in the PacWest race. Now, with a full season of adjustments and growth from a playing in a new conference, the 2013-14 Cougars are hoping to hit the ground running en route to competing for a league championship in only their second year of competition. “PacWest and national titles are what we talk about. You have to set lofty goals, and this year it’s no different. For us to get there we all have to know and fulfill our roles. We have a lot of talent, and the challenge will be to find the right chemistry,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman, who won two Golden State Athletic Conference championships before Azusa Pacific joined the PacWest in 2012. The Cougars return two starters from a season ago, including Kelly Hardeman, the preseason PacWest Player of the Year. She’s joined by point guard Sullivan Ziegler, who led the conference in assists as a sophomore. The rest of the starting lineup will be rounded out by returning talent, and incoming transfers. Azusa Pacific brought in five transfers, two of which came from NCAA Division I programs. Sendy Valles (Long Beach State) and Allison Greene (Portland State) will likely step into the starting rotation, with sophomore Lauren Gilster looking for a bigger role in her second season with the team. Elena Ala (Diablo Valley College), Michelle Eclar (Glendale College), and Lisha Elsenbach (Cal Poly Pomona) all bring college experience to the lineup, while Azusa Pacific returns four others that recorded playing time with the Cougars last year. “There will be an adjustment to having everyone play together. Early in the year, we’ll struggle more than late. But I think we’ll develop into a team that’s solid. Mixing the recruits in and having other players step into bigger roles will be interesting. If we can mold into the team that we’re capable of being we have a chance to be really good,” said Hardeman. “We have to embrace the team concept. It will be key to our success. And that team concept is knowing and fulfilling your role.” The Cougars are also embracing a new training regimen, hoping to elevate the team’s strength as it transitions to tougher and stronger competition in Division II. “We hope physically that we’re ready to compete with, and be, one of the bigger stronger teams. The physicality from last year showed us that we need to be bigger and stronger. We’ve done a lot of crossfit. We’re in good shape, and I think we’ve done a good job of being balanced. [Assistant coaches] Danielle Foley and Stephanie Singer did a good job taking the reins on that and putting together and a really good strength and conditioning program. We knew we needed to get stronger, so we’ve worked harder in the weight room than we ever have before,” said Hardeman. SCHEDULE Azusa Pacific’s non-conference should schedule prepare the Cougars for a tough season in the PacWest. The Cougars open with a home game against Cal Poly Pomona on Nov. 16 before hosting the West Region Crossover Classic on Nov. 22-23, where Azusa Pacific will play Seattle Pacific and Western Washington. Last season Western Washington made it all the way to the NCAA II Final Four, losing to the eventual national champions of Ashland (Ohio). The Vikings enter the 2013-14 season ranked No. 6 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The following weekend Azusa Pacific will travel to La Jolla for the UC San Diego Holiday Classic, where it’ll take on Cal State San Bernardino and a UC San Diego team that made the 2013 NCAA II national tournament. “Our preseason is set up to put us in as much pressure and as many disadvantageous positions as possible. We’ll see really good teams, and that gets us ready for the PacWest. We would hope to go into league play with a good record. We’re playing really good teams right away. We could be 5-0 or 0-5. We don’t have the advantage of being a team that’s played a lot together, so it will really help us grow quickly,” said Hardeman. The Cougars will open PacWest competition when it travels Dominican and Notre Dame de Namur on Dec. 5 and 7 respectively. Azusa Pacific returns home on Monday Dec. 16 for a PacWest tilt against Fresno Pacific, and closes the year with a non-conference game at Cal State L.A. on Dec. 21. Following a pair of home games against Hoy Names and Notre Dame de Namur on Jan. 4 and 6 the Cougars will have a home game against Dominican sandwiched by road contests at Dixie State and Point Loma. Azusa Pacific faces the reigning PacWest champions of California Baptist on Jan. 24, and will travel to Hawai‘i for a three-game set against BYU-Hawaii, Hawai‘i Pacific, and Chaminade on Jan. 30-Feb. 3. The Cougars will close the regular season home schedule with four straight games in the Felix Event Center from Feb. 13-22 before closing out the PacWest schedule against Academy of Art and Holy Names. The National Christian College Athletics Association national championships will take place on March 19-22 in Winona Lake, Ind. GUARDS Ziegler averaged a conference-leading 5.5 assists per game as a sophomore, and after a year in Hardeman’s system is set for another strong season playing both the 1-guard and 2-guard. She’ll be joined in the backcourt by Portland State transfer Greene, who averaged 10.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game as a sophomore. Greene is slated as the Cougars’ starting point guard headed into the 2013 season, and brings a playmaking combination of scoring an passing to the table. “Sullivan did a really good job of running our offense last year. Obviously when you lead a conference in assists that’s a special thing. She’ll play some shooting guard and some point guard this season, and we’re excited to see how she handles both roles,” said Hardeman. “It will be interesting to see Allison this season. She has great court vision, and really strong passing ability. She can see where to pass the ball, and more importantly she can throw the ball where she see its. It’s a blessing and a curse because she’s a good scorer as well. We’ll try to put her in good situations, and go from there.” Azusa Pacific returns a pair of upperclassmen guards in Katie Powell and Cara Bomar, who have a collective five years of experience in Hardeman’s program. Bomar is one of two remaining players from Azusa Pacific’s 2011 NAIA national championship team, and is a deadly 3-point shooter. Powell has been a do-it-all type of player through her first two seasons, playing in all 27 games as a sophomore. The Cougars also welcome in a quartet of incoming guards in Ala, Eclar, Elsenbach, and freshman Joelle Tampien (Lewis & Clark HS – Spokane, Wash.). Ala was a star at Diablo Valley College, where she led the Vikings to their most successful season in program history. She averaged 11.6 points and 3.8 assists as a freshman, and helped DVC to a top-20 national JUCO ranking. Elsenbach played two years at Cal Poly Pomona, and appeared in 27 games as a sophomore, putting up 3.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Eclar was an All-Western State Conference honoree as a sophomore at Glendale College, and averaged 12.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, while earning team MVP honors as a freshman and sophomore. Tampien is a sharp-shooting rookie out of Spokane. The freshman was a four-year letter winner at Lewis & Clark High School, and was named to the All-State team as a senior. “We have a lot of depth and talent in our backcourt. Katie and Cara know how to play in our system and understand what their roles will be for the season. And then we have a lot of new pieces coming into the fold that will not only help us immediately on the court, but will make us better in practice. When you have that much competition at one position it forces everyone to improve. We’re looking forward to what this group can do, and the depth helps us a lot because we like to get up and down the court,” said Hardeman. FORWARDS & CENTERS The Cougars are loaded with talent all over the floor, but no area may be as strong as at the forward position. As a freshman Hardeman took the PacWest by storm, earning the conference’s Freshman of the Year award after averaging 13.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Hardeman led Azusa Pacific in 3-pointers made, and blocked shots, and finished second in rebounding and steals. The forward, who will split time at guard, seems to be headed for an even stronger sophomore campaign after pouring in 21 points and grabbing eight rebounds in a 90-70 exhibition rout of Biola. Playing at the other forward position will be newcomer Valles, who also impressed in the exhibition against Biola. She scored a game-high 27 points in her first contest with the Cougars, and recorded a game-high six steals. The Long Beach State transfer looks primed for a strong return to action after missing time over the past two years due to injuries. “Sendy has a super-high basketball IQ, and the skills to go with it. She can put the ball on the ground and has great court sense and presence. She has the total package. As she gets the rust off, she’ll only improve. She’s our most dangerous player, and with her blend of strength and quickness is our most dangerous player,” said Hardeman. “People are always concerned with the sophomore slump, but I’m not concerned with Kelly because of what she was able to do over a full season. She’s a scorer and as she gets stronger will only improve in her ability to be multi-dimensional.” Gilster has a season of college basketball under her belt, and seems prepared for an increased role as a sophomore. She played in 24 games as a freshman, and showed all of the signs of a player that can make a major impact on the floor. She’ll be joined by senior center Annie Fredrickson, who’s played in 69 games in her three-year career with the Cougars. “Lauren had ups and downs last year, and she’ll get more opportunity this year. A good player is an opportunistic player and we want her to take advantage of that. She’s worked hard over the summer knowing that she’ll get an opportunity to improve. Annie has all of the tools that you need at the center position. She has the ability to take over inside and we’re looking for her to take advantage of her abilities down low,” said Hardeman. Freshman center Maggie Dumphy brings a long, athletic build to the court, and will be an impact player for the Cougars from the get-go. In Azusa Pacific’s exhibition against Biola she was all over the court, recording two steals, two blocks, seven rebounds, and 12 points. Her ability to defend from the weak side, along with her understanding of the game will make her a key player as a true freshman. Junior center Emily Nordberg has battled through a foot injury through most of the preseason, and once she returns will fight for an increased role in her third season with the program. “Maggie is a really talented player and I like what we’ve seen from her. She’s one of those players that knows how to be in the right spot at the right time. It’ll be fun to see her develop throughout the season and watch her grow in our program,” said Hardeman. LIVE STREAMING Each of the Cougars’ 12 regular season home games will be streamed live online. The video streaming will also include all four of the West Region Crossover Classic games, with live stats also available online for every game. The video streaming cost for each game is $7.95, and season passes are available at a discounted rate. Live Video & Stats Link ROSTER BREAKDOWN

SENIORS: 2
JUNIORS: 7
SOPHOMORES: 3
FRESHMEN: 2
RETURNERS: 7
NEWCOMERS: 7 (2 High School, 2 Junior College, 3 Four-Year Universities)