Women: High hopes

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After a surprising season last year, the Saint Louis University Women’s Basketball team is hoping to capitalize on their success this year. The team is 2-5 through Nov. 30.

Coach Shimmy Gray-Miller has transformed the team from one that won just four games in 2004-05 to one that captured the program’s first conference tournament win since 2002.

Gray-Miller attributes the success of the program to the focus of the team.

“We don’t want to get outworked,” Gray-Miller said. “We want to score the most points, of course, but we also want to get the rebounds, box out and stay focused. I can handle losing, but I cannot stand beating ourselves. That happened a few times last year.”

The head coach, in her third year at SLU, sees an A-10 championship in the near future. That mindset is evident in the players as well.

“I know that every game is a challenge,” senior guard Jackie Gilbert said. “We will need to stay focused and play hard all year. The key will be to get after it and keep the intensity throughout the whole game each and every game.”

Katie Paganelli said that the team hopes to finish fifth or better in A-10 Conference play and to “perform at the highest potential and focus possible.”

The Bills will have to play hard without one of their star performers. Sophomore Theresa Lisch will sit out for four to six weeks due to hand surgery. A-10 Conference women’s basketball coaches and media representatives selected Lisch to the 2007-08 pre-season All-Conference third team. Saint Louis was picked to finish ninth in the conference race.

“This is the best team I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Gray-Miller said. “I know the record doesn’t show that, but this team works harder than any other and has the potential to do great things in the future.”

Freshman Lauren Woods has “really impressed” Gray-Miller. Woods put up 20 points against University of Tennessee-Martin on Tuesday, Nov. 26. Against UT-Martin, the team shot 90 percent from the free-throw line and held their opponents to 18 percent shooting in the second half.

“We’re almost there,” Gray-Miller said. “We’ve struggled in the first half [but] come out second half and played to our potential. When we play at that level, we’re hard to beat.”

The SLU Women will play the next 10 of 11 games on the road before returning home Dec. 19 to face Canisus College. Gray-Miller is already looking to 2008 and continued success for the Lady Bills with the addition of five recruits thus far.

Gray-Miller said that she had “very specific needs for our 2008 class” and hopes the new athletes will “push [the team] closer to the style of play we envisioned when we came to Saint Louis.”

“They are expected to compete for championships, and that’s the sort of mentality we are working to create here,” Gray-Miller said. “These kids certainly know how to win, and as the coach of a rebuilding program, I want to bring in that type of player.”

The 2008 SLU class is comprised of 5-foot-7 point guard Janisha Gearlds (Bolingbrook, Il./Bolingbrook), 5-8 guard Alisha Goodwin (Swansea, Il./Belleville Althoff), 6-0 guard/forward Devonna Smith (Kirkwood, Mo./Kirkwood), 5-11 forward India Warfield (Dayton, Ohio/Chaminade Julienne) and 6-2 post Kaelin Reed (Cincinnati, Ohio/Taft).

“This class will come to Saint Louis next year with talent, but the winning attitude and competitive spirit they will bring with them are the qualities I’m most thrilled about,” the head coach said of her new recruits.

The recruits will be the first freshmen to play in the new Chaifetz Arena.