by Scott Harvey
With growing anticipation, the University of La Verne women’s basketball team is diligently preparing for the upcoming 1997-98 season with the hopes that it can better last year’s mark of 13-12 overall.
In 1996-97, the Leopards had a hard time staying consistent, but rallied back late in the season to take third place in SCIAC with a record of 8-4, behind Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
This year, La Verne must compete without last year’s team leader and starting center Katie Miner, who graduated last spring. Although Miner will be missing from the court, her basketball skills will be harnessed this year by head coach Julie Kline on the coaching staff as an assistant along with returning assistant William English.
The Leopards return two seniors this season, guard Alicia Gibson and injured center Laura Czingula, who severely injured tendons in her knee last season and was only able to play 73 total minutes in ’96-97. Gibson, in her first year as a Leopard after transferring from San Joaquin Delta College, shot 29 percent from three-point range, averaged three rebounds a game and averaged 9.8 points.
La Verne also returns junior forward Jennifer Spring, who averaged 10.9 points, six rebounds and shot 64.3 percent from the field in her second season as a Leopard.
The returning sophomores feature last year’s team scoring leader, forward Lori Johnson, who averaged 18.3 points a game, shot 32 percent from the three point line, averaged 12 rebounds and a team-high 28.4 minutes per game, impressive for her first year as a college player. Sophomore guard Robin Moore will also return this year after averaging only five minutes a game in 1996-97. Forward Michelle Geiger will return to the Leopards as a sophomore this year after averaging 13 minutes a game.
“I think we will all play an important part this year. Everyone will have their role in each game. Even though the roles may switch from game to game, these roles will be the key to our success,” said Johnson.
The Leopards will welcome three new players to the court as freshman forward-center Amy Perkins from Upland High School comes new to the team, while Mt. San Antonio College transfer, junior point guard Heather Johnson, will run the back court. Senior guard Tamara Loyd is also a new face on the team this year and hopes to make an impact in her last year at La Verne. Loyd played in the 1995-96 season.
ULV will also be joined this year by a very small assistant coach as Kline gave birth to her first child on Tuesday. Kline delivered a baby boy (Riley) at 10:30 a.m. and is recovering this week at her home. Kline is confident that coaches Miner and English will have the women ready for their opener tomorrow in the Trinity Tournament in San Antonio, Texas.
La Verne is currently practicing hard in preparation for the season and hopes to make a run for the SCIAC championship this year.
“I’m hoping that we can come together as a team. Individually I just want to go out there and give it all I’ve got,” said Geiger.
La Verne will host its first home game Jan. 6 against Caltech at 5:30 p.m.