Colonial women enter new season near top of polls

Noelia Gomez stands at the foul line – the game-clock has expired, it’s a one-and-one situation and she needs both shots to win the game.

The first attempt hits the front of the rim, the backboard, and falls in.

ball/Joshua

With teammate Marlo Egleston’s intense gaze upon her, Gomez concentrates, bends her knees and releases with perfect form. The ball sails through the air of the Smith Center, falling, as planned, through the basket. GW wins.

Gomez and Egleston might just have been joking around before practice, but the result of their simulation, a GW victory, will be a common occurrence this year.

GW returns every player from last year’s 20-10 squad, which won the regular season Atlantic 10 title and reached the second round in the NCAA Tournament.

The Colonial women enter the 1998-’99 campaign in a different role than in the past. They no longer fulfill the clich? of the “surprising upstarts.” Ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll, they are now the measuring stick. GW has won five straight A-10 regular-season championships and has played in the postseason for the past eight years, including seven NCAA Tournaments.

Head coach Joe McKeown said the high esteem from around the nation is due to GW’s tradition of excellence, but he said he is wary of October polls.

“It’s a nice situation to be in,” McKeown said. “I’m more concerned about where we’ll we finish in March but it helps our program, people get excited about it.”

McKeown said he looks to Gomez, a senior, and juniors Elisa Aguilar and Chasity Myers to step into on-court leadership roles.

Gomez, a 6-3 forward from Madrid, returns after a dominant junior season in which she led the team in rebounding with six per game and averaged 17.2 points per game, one less point than Aguilar.

With the return of 6-3 sophomore forward Petra Dubovcova to fill the paint, Gomez expects to move to the perimeter when she wants and increase her production.

“Petra has the European style that I like,” Gomez said. “It’s nice to play with her, we understand each other well.”

“She (Gomez) is going to enjoy playing with Petra, like when she played with (all-American Tajama) Abraham, she’ll be unstoppable,” McKeown said.

Gomez will be sidelined for the beginning of the season with a knee injury, but should return by late November or early December.

Guard Elisa Aguilar (also from Madrid) enters her junior year looking to improve on a season in which she was selected Atlantic 10 Co-Rookie of the Year. With an average of 17.2 points per game, she led the Colonial women in both scoring and assists at 4.9 a contest. She expects not to have to carry the scoring load this year, instead concentrating on distributing the ball.

“My goals are the same as the team’s,” Aguilar said. “What’s good for me is good for the team.”

Guard Chasity Myers comes off a season in which she was named A-10 Defensive Player of the Year As a junior, McKeown wants her to find her shot a little more. Myers’ scoring average dropped from 10.3 to 8.9 points per game between her freshman and sophomore years.

Add into the mix sophomore Kristeena Alexander – a talented guard who transferred from George Mason University – and the Colonial women look formidable. At George Mason, Alexander averaged 14.9 points per game and was named Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year in 1996-’97.

McKeown said his team will play an up-tempo style on offense and press on defense, and he said GW must stay healthy to run opponents down.

“We’re deep enough that we’ll be able to run this year, we’ll be able to put a lot of points on the board,” he said.

Other key players include senior forward Mandisa Turner and junior guard Marlo Egleston. Turner dominated the A-10 last season with a conference-leading 42 blocks and averaged six points and six rebounds a game. Egleston was deadly from three-point range, hitting a total of 31 threes for a 35 percent clip and averaged 7.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.

Senior center Khadija Deas and sophomores Corrin Reid and Petra Dubovcova also will fill important roles for the Colonial women. Deas tallied 26 blocks last year, while Reid played significant minutes as a freshman. Dubovcova returns from a season in which she averaged 10 points a contest, but her season was cut short by a torn ligament in her left knee

As for the rest of the bench, McKeown expects contributions from everyone.

“Vesna Perak, Mia Chiparus, Starr Jefferson, Katarina Baskova and Leslie Carlson will all have a chance to play,” McKeown said. “That’s what makes it so exciting.”

The Colonial women enter the new season brimming with confidence. Team’s goals include a regular and postseason A-10 title and a strong run in March in the NCAA Tournament.

Aguilar’s one-track mind seemed to exemplify GW’s attitude.

“I want to win everything,” Aguilar said.

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