Zias coach expects growing pains with young squad

Freedom New Mexico: Karl Terry Eastern New Mexico University sophomore Megan Kabrick hits a jumper during practice Tuesday at Greyhound Arena. The Zias open their season today in Fort Lewis (Colo.) Tournament.

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

PORTALES — With a 17-player roster that includes 12 freshmen, second-year Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball coach Linden Weese is prepared for some ups and downs.

“We’re young and inexperienced,” Weese said. “It may be a little bit of a roller-coaster ride for a while.”

That said, Weese is convinced the Zias are on the right track as they head into their 2007-08 opener tonight against host Fort Lewis at Durango, Colo., the first night of a three-day, three-team round-robin.

ENMU (14-12, 5-9 Lone Star Conference South last season) has more the look of a junior college team with regards to age and overall experience. Still, the Zias handled themselves reasonably well in exhibition losses to Division I New Mexico (98-66) and to Lubbock Christian (86-62).

“You need to play good people in the exhibitions,” Weese said. “They can point out your weaknesses; now it’s important to see if we can fix them.

“I’ve been most pleased with the effort, from one through 17. We’ve just got to do a better job of decision-making.”

That, of course, figures to come with experience.

Weese said this week he hadn’t settled on a lineup. The players with the most returning experience are 5-foot-11 sophomore guard-forward Megan Kabrick, a Portales High grad who started all 26 games last season, and 5-7 junior guard Lindsey Wood.

Another PHS grad, junior guard Erika Cook, is back in action after breaking a finger in a late-season game in 2005-06 and then missing all of last season with a knee injury.

Among the freshmen Weese has been impressed with so far are 6-foot post Clarissa Krum of Los Lunas, 5-7 guard Patricia Malouff of Aztec and 5-8 point guard Tori Northcutt of Clovis. Malouff had 17 points — all in the second half — at LCU, shooting 4-of-6 from 3-point range.

“Most of us have played against each other (in high school), or with each other in all-star games or in AAU during the summer,” Northcutt said. “We’ve played pretty hard (in the exhibitions), and we’ve worked pretty well together.”

The Zias don’t have a dominating presence inside at this point, and thus will rely on 3-pointers. They pumped up 56 treys during the two exhibitions, hitting 18 of them.

Weese said the team has to improve on defense and do a better job of taking care of the ball — the Zias had 49 turnovers in the exhibitions.

“If our post kids can get used to the physical play on the block, I think that’ll help us,” he said.
The Zias came in seventh in the eight-team South in the preseason poll.

“I still think we can finish in the top four (to make the LSC postseason tournament),” Weese said. “I may be pipe-dreaming, but I believe in these kids if they can just get it figured out.”

Northcutt believes the team has the potential to do some good things.

“Since the beginning of offseason (workouts), I can tell we’ve improved,” she said. “I think we’re all looking to come out with a winning season.”

No. Name Ht. Pos. Yr.
1 Vanessa O’Neal 5-4 G Fr.
2 Erika Cook 5-4 G Jr.
4 Samantha Matta 5-7 G Fr.
5 Cat Clay 6-1 P Fr.
10 Blythe McPherson 5-7 G Fr.
12 Patricia Malouff 5-7 G Fr.
20 Lindsey Wood 5-7 G Jr.
21 Megan Kabrick 5-11 G/F So.
22 Stephanie Bailey 5-10 G/F So.
23 Taylor Sauer 6-0 P Fr.
25 Tori Northcutt 5-8 G Fr.
30 Kelsie Hawkins 5-9 G Jr.
32 Lacey Acker 5-8 G Fr.
33 Kara Bible 6-3 P Fr.
40 Clarissa Krum 6-0 F Fr.
42 Til-Lois Fifer 5-11 F Fr.
44 Hayley McKinzie 6-0 P Fr.
Head coach: Linden Weese (2nd year).
Assistant coaches: Austin Durrett, Symbri Melynn Tuttle.

15 — at Fort Lewis, 6 p.m.; 16 — vs. Dixie State at Durango, Colo., 6 p.m.; 20 — New Mexico Highlands, 5:30 p.m.; 23 — at Metro State, 3 p.m.; 24 — vs. Colo. State-Pueblo at Denver, 1 p.m.
1 — Texas A&M-Commerce, 5 p.m.-y; 6 — at Northeastern State, 5 p.m.-y; 8 — at Central Oklahoma, 1 p.m.-y; 17 — at New Mexico Highlands, 5:30 p.m.
3 — East Central, 5:30 p.m.-y; 5 — Southeastern Oklahoma, 2 p.m.-y; 10 — at Southwestern Oklahoma, 5 p.m.-y; 12 — at Cameron, 1 p.m.-y; 16 — at Texas A&M-Kingsville, 5 p.m.-x; 19 — West Texas A&M, 5:30 p.m.-x; 23 — at Abilene Christian, 5 p.m.-x; 26 — Angelo State, 5 p.m.-x; 31 — Texas Woman’s, 7 p.m.-x.
2 — at Midwestern State, 5 p.m.-x; 6 — Tarleton State, 5:30 p.m.-x; 9 — Texas A&M-Kingsville, 5 p.m.-x; 13 — Abilene Christian, 5:30 p.m.-x; 16 — at West Texas A&M, 5 p.m.-x; 21 — at Texas Woman’s, 6 p.m.-x; 23 — at Angelo State, 5 p.m.-x; 27 — at Tarleton State, 5 p.m.-x.
1 — Midwestern State, 5 p.m.-x.
All times MST. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference South Division games. y-Denotes Lone Star Conference crossover games.