The women’s basketball team is set to begin the quest for a three-peat as Southland Conference champs when they take on Southwest College in Moody Coliseum Friday night.
The team will be figuring out life after the departure of their big four – Suzzy and Lizzy Dimba, Sydney Shelstead and Alexis Mason – for the first time in Friday’s game as well.
Sophomore point guard Breanna Wright will bring returning starter experience to the Wildcats, however, and will be a key piece to the women’s success, coaches said.
Head coach Julie Goodenough said she has a lot of expectations for Wright going into the season.
“We’re relying on her to be a leader for us just because she has played so many big-time minutes,” Goodenough said. “She’s played in the pre-season WNIT and the postseason WNIT as a starter, and that experience is something no one else on the team has.”
Wright averaged 5.5 points per game and finished with an impressive 117 assists last season.
The Wildcats also bring back other returners in seniors Sierra Allen and Taudencia Oluoch, junior Sara Williamson and sophomores Dominique Golightly, Pamela Herrera and Lexi Kirgan. The team also added a Rice transfer in junior forward Lexie Ducat.
The women’s non-conference schedule will include some big schools, including Arkansas, Southern Methodist University, Florida Gulf Coast University and Idaho.
ACU will then begin its conference games days before New Year’s Eve on Dec. 28 against New Orleans in Abilene.
The team will play through most of the spring semester, competing in their final regular season game against Incarnate Word on March 3.
Goodenough said she is ready to get the season underway.
“The weather is getting colder outside, so that to me is always a sign that basketball season is right around the corner,” she said. “This is the time of the year where players are so sick of playing each other. They’re ready to have a game and play in front of our crowd, so we’re ready to get the games started.”
Though Goodenough and the Wildcats are the reigning back-to-back Southland Conference champs, the team has been predicted to finish fifth this season.
ACU sits above McNeese in the preseason predictions, while New Orleans is projected to finish fourth, Stephen F. Austin third, Central Arkansas second and Lamar first.
This year will also be the first season that the women will be eligible for the postseason Southland tournament, as well as the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve been talking about that since we started working out this summer – it’s our first year to play in the conference tournament,” Goodenough said. “Someone will get the NCAA bid by winning that tournament and there’s no better team for that to happen to than us.”
The women will begin their game against Southwest in Moody at 5:30 p.m. It can be heard on 98.1 FM.