It is the best time of the year for the La Verne women’s basketball as the team dribbles its way into a new season.
With high hopes, the Leopards are looking forward to taking this season to a whole new level.
The team hopes to make it to playoffs this season and dominate the SCIAC.
“Our goal is to make it to SCIAC tournament and I think we have a good chance,” junior guard Shannon Irwin said.
“We have our newbies to help us a lot and our returners are back and we know what we are facing.” she said.
The team unofficially began its season with an exhibition game Nov. 1 at Frantz Athletic Court.
The Leopards dominated NAIA Cal State San Marcos, 72-51.
The Cougars took a 17-14 lead, but the Leopards responded back quickly.
La Verne went on a 15-0 run and the Cougars were unable to get back.
The Leopards had a 10-point lead, 41-31, heading into the second half of the game.
La Verne led Cal State San Marcos by as many as 24 points.
Irwin led the game with 25 points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals.
“I think going off of that win, the team is feeling good,” Irwin said.
“We were playing together and we held our expectations of taking each opponent seriously.” she said.
Junior center Emily Myers followed Irwin with 11 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Sophomore forward Gaby Moura-Hayes finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
After taking a two week break, the team went back into basketball mode, as they were off to play once more, with the drive to win.
The Leopards traveled to Newberg, Oregon last weekend.
The team competed in the George Fox Tip-Off Classic, where they officially started its season against two Northwestern Conference powerhouse teams.
Fighting point for point in the first half, the team fell short against the Linfield Wildcats, 97-68, Saturday at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
The team totaled 32 personal fouls, giving their opponent more free throw opportunities.
La Verne was limited to 36.5 percent shots.
Linfield managed to shoot 58 percent and had 44.4 percent three-point shots.
This was double of La Verne’s shots with only 20 percent.
The Leopards were able to get within one before heading into halftime with a three-pointer made by Irwin.
Irwin finished the game with 10 points.
Coming into the second half, Linfield made a 12-0 run, which the Leopards were unable to come back from.
The team fell out of the game as they shot 0-11 from the three-point line and only made 12 of 41 shots.
Freshman forward Kayla Chism and junior guard Kayla Valentine led La Verne’s scoring with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
“It feels good to contribute and help my team try to win,” Chism said.
“One of my goals is to come in and make an impact right away. It’s just the start of the season and it can only get better from here so we can’t let anything stop us or get in the way.” she said.
The Leopards had a chance to come back from the loss Sunday, facing George Fox.
The team had 29 turnovers and were not connected offensively, shooting .260 overall, resulting in a 74-47 loss to George Fox.
“We knew what we were getting into, and it was tough getting used to the new foul rules,” Myers said.
“We’re focused on these preseason games and taking what we learn from them whether it’s our defense or our shooting and hoping to apply them in our next games as we begin regular season play.” she said.
Just like the previous game, the Leopards fell apart coming into the second half of the game.
The Bruins went on a 16-6 run to begin the second half and continued to dominate as La Verne was unable to get back in the game.
Myers scored 12 points and 11 rebounds.
This was her first double-double of the season.
She was also named to the All-Tournament team,
Senior guard Riki Murakami finished with eight points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“Coming into this game, I knew that they were both top division teams and I just disregarded that and just saw them as a regular team,” Valentine said.
“I took confidence in my team like I always do and confidence in myself and did the best for the team and tried to push them along also to try and get that win.” she said.
The team is now 0-2 overall on the season.
The Leopards will use these games as a motivation, as they head closer to beginning conference play.
La Verne ended the 2013 season with an overall record of 13-12 and 8-8 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Conference and placed fifth in standings.
The team finished its season with a loss against the Chapman Panthers, 59-41, Feb. 22, ending the teams run for a spot in the postseason tournament.
Before halftime, the Leopards managed to tie the game at 18.
Chapman broke out in the second half, as they went on a 13-0 run.
La Verne tried to catch up but fell just short, resulting in the loss.
The Panthers finished their season second in the SCIAC with a record of 14-2.
The team will face Bethesda at 2 p.m. Saturday at Frantz Athletic Court.
The Leopards will face the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas in its first SCIAC game and home opener Dec. 2.
Annabel Secaida can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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