It’s that time of year again. When the gym doors open and November hits, every basketball athlete is antsy to get back on the floor and give it everything they have. Teams prepare all year long for a shot at a national championship. The women’s basketball team at Colorado Mesa University is looking to be one of those teams as they begin the 2017-18 season.
Led by Head coach Taylor Wagner, the team is fresh off a 21-win season. They had an overall record of 21-7 last year, with a 17-5 record in conference play. Their season ended at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) tournament after they lost to the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in the semifinals. Even though they were one of the top teams in RMAC last year, they are predicted to finish fourth based on the preseason coaches’ poll. The three teams ahead of them in the poll are CSU-Pueblo, Fort Lewis and Regis.
The team has talent returning along with four new recruits. Erin Reichle, senior guard, is coming off an All-RMAC Second Team selection after averaging 13.2 points per game. Ma’ata Epenisa, senior center, was an All-RMAC Honorable mention last season and averaged 10.2 points per game along with 4.9 rebounds.
Juniors Jaylyn Duran and Sydney Small are looking to continue their steady contributions. Duran shot well from beyond the arc last season, shooting .400 and finishing third on the team in three-pointers made. Small averaged 2.3 assists last season, good for second on the team.
Over the offseason, the team brought in some new recruits including Kelsey Siemons and Karina Brandon. Siemons was named player of the year at her high school in Tucson, Ariz. Brandon is transferring from Salt Lake Community College, where she helped the team reach the JUCO Final Four.
Reichle is looking forward to playing with her teammates and has big team aspirations in mind.
“The biggest thing I’m looking forward to this year is playing alongside amazing girls,” Reichle said. “I’ve really gotten to know and become very close with the girls on the team.”
CMU will hope to carry over their steady offense and ball handling from a year ago. They averaged 71.9 points per game, outpacing their opponents by 11.8 points a game. After averaging 15.3 assists and only turning it over 364 times, that helped the team win some games, and ranked them inside the top forty and top twenty in Division II.
The Mavericks are looking to make their way back to the NCAA tournament after being left out the past two seasons. The last time the team earned an NCAA berth, they finished first in the RMAC.
“I really want our team to win a conference championship,” Reichle said. “It’s been a couple years since our team made it past the RMAC tournament and I know how amazing that feels and I want my teammates to be able to experience that as well.”
The team opens up the regular season on Nov. 10 as they participate in the Ashbrook Classic.