Women take two

The cast has been altered but the show remains the same for the Seattle Pacific University women’s basketball team.

The No. 3 ranked Falcons have jumped to a 3-0 start, claiming the Sodexho Classic at Royal Brougham two weekends ago and stretching their home unbeaten streak to 34 games.

On Friday Nov. 18, the women faced Biola University out of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and were pushed to the limits as they escaped 77-68. After building a 23-point first half lead, the Falcons gave it all back in the second half.

The Eagles’ 6-foot-6-inch center Linda Ogugua gave the Falcons fits by tallying 24 points and 13 rebounds. Biola squeezed the Falcons’ lead to one point halfway through the second half before sophomore Beth Christensen’s three-pointer keyed an 8-0 run that carried the women to victory.

Senior point guard Mandy Wood led the women with 20 points while Christensen finished with 12. The nine-point margin of victory was only the second time since the Falcons began their home winning streak that a team has come within 10 points of SPU.

"The first couple of games you get a glimpse of what the year is going to look like," Wood said.

Saturday evening’s game was a much better glimpse of the Falcons than Friday night. Senior Jenny Poe scored 15 points and senior Carli Grant posted her first double-double of the season (she had 12 last year) as the Falcons dominated Moorhead State 78-49.

For Poe, her 11.3 point-per-game average is up considerably from last year. Usually noted for her defense and intensity, Poe has been able to find her shot in the beginning of the season.

"Our offense is more free-flowing this year," Poe said. She went on to talk about how she feels more comfortable taking shots and finding shots in head coach Julie van Beek’s system as opposed to the offense that former coach Gordy Presnell ran last season.

The Falcons took a 25-point lead into halftime against the Dragons and never let their opponent get closer than 20 points after the break. Wood and Poe were selected for the all-tournament team.

The team is adjusting to their new coaching staff as they try and pick up where they left off last season.

"Change is hard," Wood explained. "It is hard to adjust at first but it becomes easier as the season goes on."

For Wood, being in a program for four years and having to adapt in her senior year is new. But for Poe, a Portland State transfer, and other transfers on the team, change is all part of the business.

"This is my third coach in four years," Poe said. "Having a new coach is always uncomfortable at first for both the coach and players because you get used to a system and then it changes all of a sudden."

The change has yet to alter the results and the women still appear determined to run their opponents out of the gym. With one contributing freshman and two transfers, the Falcons have the depth to push the ball up and down the court at a fast pace for the full 40 minutes.

"They fit right in," Wood said, referring to her new teammates. "It doesn’t seem like they just came into our system."

Both Wood and Poe pointed out that the team’s ability to play good defense and bring a high level of intensity is going to be important for their success. Wood felt that the team improved in these areas during the first three games but that there is plenty of room for improvement.

"If our defense is there then our offense will fall right into place," Wood said.

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, the women want to put themselves in a position to get back to the national title game. The women have eight members that played for the national title last year and they feel that they belong there again.

However, Wood was not about to get too far ahead of herself.

"Our end goal is to win a national championship, but there are goals along the way that we are going to need to meet first," she said.

The women are back in action Saturday night at Royal Brougham as they face Lewis-Clark State. The game begins at 5 p.m. and is free for all SPU students.

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Title: Women take two | Author: Grant Ludwick | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2005-11-30 | Internal ID: 4744