Suzy Barcomb has been an underdog all her life, and this year will be no different for the Seattle University women’s basketball coach. Coming into a new season, Barcomb and the Redhawks are eager to prove the doubters wrong.

Outside expectations are low for the Redhawks this year after the team lost eight regular players from last year’s roster, including the top four scorers. In the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) preseason coaches’ poll, Seattle U was picked to finish last in the 13-team league.

Barcomb was “shocked” that her team was picked to finish so low and remains convinced that the Redhawks are going to surprise some people in 2022.

The Redhawks finished last season at 11-19 overall and lost to UTRGV in the first round of the WAC tournament.

“I thought we had a really talented team, but we didn’t achieve the level of success we should have achieved,” Barcomb said. “So that was really disappointing to me as a head coach of this program. And now maybe (we’re) less talented because (we’re) young. Not because the talent is not there, but the work ethic, the accountability piece, all of those dynamics is up here for me.”

This year, the Redhawks are essentially starting from scratch.

There are six freshmen joining the team, in Mya Moore, Makayla Moore, Lisa Michaelsen, Sheridan Liggett, Noemie Bariteau and Asta Blauenfeldt. The Redhawks also added a pair of experienced transfers in former UC Riverside forward Kari Kyrkjebo and Tacoma native Julianna Walker, from Syracuse.

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“I’m gonna go to battle with this group,” Barcomb said. “I’m gonna go to war with this group, and this is what we’re going to do. And so I guess optimism is not quite the right word, but I look forward to watching this team grow over the year. I don’t think it’s going to be pretty at times, I don’t, but I’ll win ugly over losing pretty any day of the week.”

Walker was a two-time All-State player and three-time Nisqually Valley League MVP at Annie Wright Schools in Tacoma, where she scored the third-most points in state history and was named the Gatorade Washington Girls Basketball Player of the Year in 2020-21.

She returns to the Northwest after a challenging year with the Orange, where she made 14 appearances as a freshman and averaged 1.6 points per game.

“It was definitely tough,” Walker said of her year at Syracuse. “But it was 100% a learning experience, and just to find myself as well as a person and as an athlete, but I’m glad to be back here because I feel more loved. Not that they didn’t love me out there, but I just feel better being back home.”

Barcomb recruited Walker since her junior year at Annie Wright and was thrilled when she got the call that Walker would finally be joining the team.

“I squealed, I think,” Barcomb said.

Walker will be a crucial component of this year’s Seattle U offense, which will look a bit different with so many new players joining the team. Rather than run the “Princeton” offense like they have in years past, Barcomb expects the Redhawks to run a lot more on-ball screen action in the coming year.

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Junior Peyton Howard is the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder, and expects to see her role increase quite a bit in the coming season, both on the court and as a team leader.

“The offense that we’re running is just kind of built for the type of player that I am, so I just love it, ” Howard said. “It’s like, perfect, but I also do miss running Princeton. But it’s nice to have some different things, so they’re not just scouting one thing. They don’t know everything we have now.”

It is a year of big changes for Seattle U. While last year’s team was full of ultimately unrealized talent, this year’s young squad represents a new day for the Redhawks program.

“We’re just trying to rebuild it,” Barcomb said. “Kind of start over with what’s important to us and our culture and what we want to get going here. I love all the new people we have and what they’re bringing to the table. They’re dynamically different, which is really important to us.”

Seattle U will open its season Thursday at Oregon State.