Washington State made it to the WNIT semifinals last year and they return four starters and get a few players back from injury.
Has any basketball team defied the odds more than last year’s Washington State women’s squad?
With their three top scorers out for the season with injuries, the Cougars still managed to finish seventh in the Pac-12. Then they made the most of their second season with a trip to the WNIT that didn’t end until the semifinals.
WSU coach June Daugherty credited the players: “Hats off to them. They’re the ones who did it, being so mentally tough.”
Coach: June Daugherty, 11th year.
2016-17: 6-12 overall, 16-20 Pac-12 (7th).
Starters returning: 4.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Chanelle Molina, G, 5-9, soph. — Was having an outstanding freshman season before going down with a knee injury after playing 17 games. Was second on the team in scoring (12.8 per game) and first in assists (3.7).
Borislava Hristova,F, 6-0, soph. — From Bulgaria, she led WSU in scoring through seven games (14.7) before injuring her foot and getting granted an injury redshirt season.
The Cougars are deep and talented and seem poised for a breakout season if they can stay relatively heathy.
Now they can’t wait to play again. The Cougars are eager to make up for lost time and try to replicate what they did last year, including an 82-73 win over No. 7 UCLA that stands as the biggest upset in program history.
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“Our offense is the best it’s ever been,” Daugherty said. “We have the leadership, the talent and the depth to take WSU to a place it’s never been.”
Perhaps the most exciting returnee is sophomore guard Chanelle Molina, who made the Pac-12 all-freshman team despite suffering a season-ending knee injury.
In just 17 games, the 5-foot-9 Molina averaged 12.8 points on 52 percent shooting while scoring in double figures in 12 straight games.
Fully recovered, the five-star recruit from Hawaii is “quicker than ever,” according to Daugherty.
Also back is forward Borislava Hristova — WSU’s top scorer in 2015-16 — who played only nine games before suffering a foot injury. Forward Louise Brown made it only seven games, also falling to a foot injury.
Back too are the players who picked up the slack last year. The biggest is guard Alexys Swedlund, who averaged 18 points and 38 minutes in five WNIT games.
Senior guard Caila Hailey — a 33-game starter — figures to get heavy minutes after averaging 8.3 points and almost three assists per game. Senior Pinelopi Pavlopoulou (8.2 ppg) also will see plenty of action.