Bearcats Young and Old; Willamette's women's basketball team features a core of seniors and a slew of freshmen in 2003 season

SALEM: For second year head coach Tom Steers, this season’s version of the Willamette University women’s basketball team will be one final season for half the squad and one new beginning for the other half.

The Bearcats open the 2003-2004 season tonight at the Bon Appetit Classic at Lewis and Clark.

Five seniors rule this year’s team, led by four-year players Simmie Muth, Jammie Muth, Abby Unick and Sarah O’Brien. They’ll be joined by one of the Northwest Conference’s most exciting players in Deanna Lund (pictured left), playing her second season as a Bearcat after transferring from Clark Community College.

The freshmen class includes a pair of Bearcats soccer players, Kari Woody and Lisa Tollenaar. They are joined by Ashley Mollet, Brianne King and Christina Moore.

The sophomore class is represented by Megan Scheelar, another Bearcat two-sport athlete, Anna McLuen and Megan West, a transfer student from UC-Davis.

Juniors Danielle Page and Meredith Stevens are both red shirting this season; Page to attend school abroad and Stevens to rehabilitate a torn ACL.

“We’re little, but we’ll fly,” said Steers. “We’re going to have to force turnovers and play up-tempo. If we get into a half-court game against these big NWC schools, we’ll be in trouble.”

Steers has added another Silverton connection to his coaching roster. Tara Schmidgal played for Steers at Silverton high School before spending four years at Western Baptist. She’ll join Chris Blackburn (2nd year), who teaches at Silverton High and is a member of the Silverton City Council.

Last year, the Bearcats were 8-17 overall, 2-14 in the NWC.

“We’re going to experiment with a lot of lineups early in the season, especially as we work in the volleyball and soccer players. We’ll be flexible enough to go with a big line-up and a small unit. It’s going to be a fun season as we bring the team together.”

Here’s how Steers breaks his team down by position:

Point Guard: Simmie Muth (10.9 points per game, 4.1 rebounds and 59 assists in 2002) will get most of the minutes here. A Solid ball-handler and good shooter, Simmie knows how to make this team run and get us into the offense. Senior Sarah O’Brien (2.9 points, 2.0 boards) will back-up Muth at point guard. O’Brien is the Bearcats most versatile player and she’ll get minutes at shooting guard and both forward positions this season.

Shooting Guard: Jammie Muth (8.5 points, 2.5 rebounds in 8 games in 2002) and Abby Unick (4.5 points, 2.0 rebounds) give the Bearcats a solid duo here. Add in freshman King, who is one of the better shooters on the team, and the Bearcats shold be able to put up some points from the outside this season. Unick continues to improve offensively and she’s the Bearcats most tenacious defender. Steers will be looking to her for intensity and leadership, as well as more points. Muth returns after missing most of last season to study abroad. She’ll add shooting and steadiness to the Bearcats at both ends of the court. She’ll also play some small forward.

Small forward: Along with O’Brien and Jammie Muth, Kari Woody and Lisa Tollenaar are expected to be a big part of the line-up this season. Both are Bearcat soccer goalies and will need some time to adjust to college ball once they finish soccer season. Both are athletic, solid players. Expect Woody to get major minutes soon.

Power forward: Deanna Lund (10.4 points, 6.2 rebounds) came into this season in great shape and it will show in increased minutes. She can score inside and out, rebound and play solid defense. Anna McLuen, who appeared in 12 games last season, has also impressed Steers and will share time with West, the transfer student from UC-Davis.

Post: Moore and Scheelar (2,1 points, 1.2 rebounds), when she returns from volleyball, will get the minutes when Steers needs a big presence inside. Both have the size and leaping ability to give the Bearcats solid rebounding and defense inside.