Orientation: WSU women's sports get ready to roll

As fall semester approaches, Weber State University women’s athletic programs are ready to build on the successes they had last year. Each team is returning experienced athletes, while the coaches have been working on the recruiting trail, bringing in new talent to boost their rosters.

The Wildcat cross-country team will return three of its seven top runners, including All-American Amber Henry. All eyes might be on the performance of Henry in her senior campaign, but head coach Paul Pilkington said it will be an all-around team effort to replicate the success the team accomplished last fall when it won the Mountain Region Championship by defeating teams from the University of New Mexico and the University of Colorado.

“We have a great freshman class coming in, which should help us battle for the Big Sky Championship,” Pilkington said. “We are going to rely heavily on the younger runners, but we should still have a solid team.”

Having lost some of his top runners to graduation, Pilkington said he feels that one of the young runners who will build off last season’s success will be Jamie Stokes.

“One runner who had an amazing year last year was Jamie Stokes,” he said. “She was one of two freshmen to be named to the All-Mountain Region team, which meant she placed in the top 25. She is very good.”

The team will have a chance to defend that title on its home course, as WSU will host the 2013 Mountain Region Cross-Country Championships in November.

A year removed from five conference wins and minutes away from the Big Sky Championship, the women’s soccer team is ready to take the next step. The team will return all 11 of its starters, including last year’s Big Sky Newcomer of the Year, Chansi Crompton, who led the Big Sky in assists, and Brecken Holbrook, an All-Big Sky First Team selection.

“About halfway through last season, the girls started to click and play really well together,” said Tim Crompton, the team’s coach. “We felt that we were the best team out there, and I think that translates to this year. All of the girls are highly motivated after that loss to Idaho State last year.”

Coach Crompton said the goals are similar to that which the team established in the past: winning games and contending for a Big Sky championship.

“I feel that if we compete for a Big Sky Championship, qualify to play in the NCAA tournament, it will be a great year,” he said. “Our goals are similar mostly every year, and we get disappointed if we don’t reach them.”

Tom Peterson, entering his third year at the helm of the women’s volleyball program, said he has high hopes for when the team’s season starts on Aug. 30 at home against Grand Canyon University at the Wildcat Weekend.

“We are going to be a better team this year,” Peterson said. “We have a bigger team, with 17 athletes that will all contribute out on the floor. Most of them are returning with experience and a desire to do better. The competition in practice has been great, and a lot of these girls are coming off a great spring.”

With so many returning players, Peterson said how the team integrates and plays together will dictate how its season goes.

“Volleyball is a team sport. We are going to have to win by committee,” Peterson said. “If we win, it will be because the team played well. They executed the way that we wanted them to.”

WSU women’s basketball team will return to the court this fall with much to prove. Just a year removed from fielding one of the youngest rosters in the NCAA, Bethann Ord, the team’s coach, said she feels that her team is ready to take great strides this year.

“Continue to get better, that is what we are doing,” Ord said. “The experience that the team gained last year is going to pay off this coming year and hopefully carry over to wins. As long as they take it one game at a time, we will continue to improve.”

For the basketball team, two of the Big Sky Conference’s best rebounders, Kalie Mathews and Jalen Carpenter, who average eight and 6.4 rebounds a game respectively, will return for their sophomore seasons. Zakiyyah Shahid-Martin will also suit up for the team, having sat out last year after transferring from St. John’s University.

“We have two new ladies coming in, and with Zakiyyah coming off a redshirt year, we have some new faces that will be able to contribute right away,” Ord said. “We are still going to have a lot of youth, but they have grown up over the past year.”