It truly is the “Don of a new era” for the Lady Dons basketball team this season, as they opened play with a victory in an exhibition game against Sonoma State last Friday night at War Memorial Gymnasium. USF pummeled the visiting Seawolves 61-34. Returning ten players from last year’s roster, the Lady Dons have the team chemistry and experience necessary to win lots of games this season. With a brand new coaching staff that includes highly touted head coach Jennifer Azzi, the Lady Dons look to improve upon last years 5-27 record and compete more successfully in WCC play.
Motivated and focused the Lady Dons showed they meant business when sophomore forward Ashley Boggs hit a long three pointer to open up a 17-3 scoring run, just two minutes into the game. Boggs continued to be hot from beyond the arc, netting two more three-pointers in a matter of minutes. Standout, 2009 All -WCC honorable mention point guard Rheina Ale also contributed putting up 11 points and three assists.
But it wasn’t only the Dons’ offense that led them to victory. Sonoma was held to shooting a dismal 19.3 percent from the field converting only 11 of 57 field goals. “Our defense really fueled our offense last night,” said junior forward Katy Keating. Huge contributions on defense by Bailey Barbour and Donnisha Taylor helped the Lady Dons keep a very comfortable lead throughout the contest. Barbour pulled down six rebounds and recorded three blocks while Taylor snatched an unbelievable 14 boards. The Dons’ experience and camaraderie was evident as seen by their team defense; together the Lady Dons’ defense tallied nine steals seven blocks and 53 rebounds.
The Lady Dons have high hopes for this season with the addition of their new, highly experienced coaching staff. Head coach Jennifer Azzi not only won a NCAA National Championship at Stanford but also helped the United States Olympic Team to win gold medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
While at Stanford, Azzi received both the Naismith Award (given to the top women’s and men’s collegiate player) and the Wade trophy (awarded to the top Women’s basketball player) for her phenomenal play, leadership and influence. While playing for the Olympic team, she helped the USA post an awe-inspiring perfect season, going 60-0 including 8-0 in the Olympics. To top it off, Azzi also played five seasons in the WNBA after being drafted in the first round by the Detroit Shock. She went on to play with the Utah Starzz before retiring from professional basketball in 2004. She now coaches basketball as well as runs fitness camps and tours the states giving inspirational speeches.
Joining Azzi this season to help lead the Dons is associate head coach Katy Steding. Steding and Azzi were teammates when they helped Stanford win its first ever women’s basketball NCAA Championship in 1990. Before coming to the city she coached at Columbia where she helped the Lions to their best finish in Ivy League history.
The Lady Dons will kick off the start of the real season next Friday against the Aggies of UC Davis at 5:30 p.m. in War Memorial gym.
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