Nov. 19, 2002
The Santa Clara University women's basketball team opens the 2002-03 season this weekend with a visit to Pennsylvania. In the last 10 years, the Broncos have opened the season on the road seven times, and are 5-2 in that time frame. Santa Clara will visit Lehigh University in Bethlehem on Friday and then take on Temple on Sunday, which will air live on TV back East on the Comcast channel.
Welcome to "Washington South"
With seven players on this year's roster from the state of Washington, the mission campus is becoming known as "Washington South." The Broncos returned seven of the eight Washington natives from last season in seniors Tammy Annas of Enumclaw, Julie Butler of Tacoma and Courtney Cushing of Brush Prairie, as well as junior Jennie Rondel of Kirkland, and last year's entire recruiting class, Kim Butler of Tacoma, Quinn Thomas of Kent and Kayla Huss of Everett.
Live on the Internet
Santa Clara's entire schedule returns to the Internet, as a live audio broadcast will be available for a third season on www.SantaClaraBroncos.com. Additionally, Leavey Center contests can be followed online with a live statistical tracker, also located on SCU's official athletic website. By logging on, fans receive real-time updated statistics direct from the official scoring computer, allowing users to listen to the audio broadcast and keep up with the statistics simultaneously. Anthony Passarelli returns as the voice of the Broncos for a second season.
In the Rankings
Although the Broncos are not ranked in the top 25 polls yet, the team did receive seven votes in the preseason USA Today/ESPN/WBCA Top 25 Coaches' Poll. Santa Clara is also ranked 19th nationally by CollegeRPI.com.
With its upset victory over 24th-ranked Utah to open last season, Santa Clara has now won its last three season-openers. The game also marked the fourth season opener on the road for the Broncos in the last five seasons. Additionally, the win marked the ninth season-opening victory for the Broncos in the last 11 years and 23rd overall in 39 seasons.
With a 10-3 non-conference mark last season, Santa Clara has posted 11 straight non-losing non-conference seasons and is 94-41 (.696) during that span. Santa Clara's most successful non-conference season ever came during the 1990-91 season when the Broncos went 12-2.
Scouting the Lehigh Mountain Hawks
Series Record: First Meeting
Notable: The 2002-03 season commemorates the 30th year of women's athletics at Lehigh... the number of opportunities available to the female athletes has increased to 12 intercollegiate programs, compared to the 1973 season, when there was only field hockey... the Mountain Hawks return all 12 letter winners from last year's squad, including four seniors... the team is led by Anne Tierney, who holds Lehigh's career rebounding record.
Scouting the Temple Owls
Series Record: Santa Clara leads 2-0
First Meeting: 1996 - SCU won (79-53) Dec. 31 in Santa Clara
Last Meeting: 2001 - SCU won (86-66) Dec. 19 in Santa Clara
SCU Largest Margin of Victory: 26 on Dec. 31, 1996 (79-53) in Santa Clara
Notable: Temple introduces seven newcomers to the 2002-03 roster... the team will open its season against Penn on Friday before hosting the Broncos... the Broncos shot 54.2 percent from the field in their last meeting against the Owls... the game will be part of a doubleheader with the Temple men's team, who will face Rutgers.
Up Next: Texas A&M Tournament
Santa Clara remains on the road and will visit College Station, Texas, after Thanksgiving for a two-day tournament. The Broncos will open against Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday and follow on Sunday against host Texas A&M or Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne.
A Change of Scenery
After opening the 2000-01 season by playing its first four home games off campus, the basketball program returned to a revamped Leavey Center to complete the season. Formerly known as Harold J. Toso Pavilion, Leavey is in the second phase of a two-year reconstruction effort that is transforming the building into one of the finest sports venues of its size on the West Coast.
Began in March, the second phase of progress in the Leavey Center will cost an estimated $14 million and will include a complete reconstruction of the east side of the building. Included will be athletic department offices, weight room, academic center, team room, press center, video control room, new upper level seating and a suite that overlooks the court-a 43,000-square-foot addition spanning four stories of the University's 25-year-old sports complex.
The seating capacity for the building will be reduced to 2,400 for two home basketball games-against San Jose State and Cal Poly-while construction remains in progress. A joint effort between project contractor Devcon Construction and architect Ellerbe Becket provided a four-story wall that have allowed competition and day-to-day operations to continue during construction. Once the seating phase of construction is completed by late December, the building will accommodate more than 4,500 fans for a Bronco athletic event, compared to 4,255 last year. Phase II is scheduled for completion in April 2002.
Devcon, located in Milpitas, is the general contractor for both Phase I and II. Ellerbe Becket of San Francisco, which worked with Esherick, Homsey, Dodge and Davis of San Francisco on Phase I, is the architect for Phase II. The original center was designed by architects Albert A. Hoover and Associates of Palo Alto, Calif., and built in 1975.
The first phase, which was highlighted by the removal of the famous "bubble" roof in April 2000, required SCU coaches and administrators to move into temporary quarters. At the completion of $11.75 million Phase I renovation in January 2001, Leavey had a new roof surrounded by spectacular 23-foot glass walls, a new floor, new bleachers and a new suspended scoreboard. The constructed caused the volleyball program to relocate for one season and moved two exhibition basketball contests and two regular season games to nearby Bellarmine College Prep.
Broncos Picked Second in Preseason Poll
Despite returning two starters from the 2001 regular season West Coast Conference championship women's basketball team, and a third starter from two seasons ago, Santa Clara was picked to finish fifth in a poll by league coaches, the conference released yesterday.
Saint Mary's earned 49 points to slide ahead of Pepperdine for the top spot in this year's poll. San Francisco and Loyola Marymount are slated to finish third and fourth, respectively, in the poll.
Season/Game Tickets On Sale
Season and individual game tickets for Santa Clara are on sale through the school's official website www.SantaClaraBroncos.com and the athletic ticket office at 408-554-4660. In conjunction with Student Advantage's FANSonly Network, the athletic department has developed an online ticket application that provides fans with the ability to purchase season tickets, family plans, individual games or an all-sports pass via the official athletic website. Season and individual match ticket packages are also available through the athletic ticket office, open between the hours of 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Head Coach Michelle Bento
Santa Clara appointed Mountain View, Calif., native Michelle Bento as the seventh head coach in the school's 38-year women's basketball history in June. Bento recently completed her fourth season on the women's basketball coaching staff at Syracuse under veteran coach Marianna Freeman and was recently promoted to Associate Head Coach. A 10-year coaching veteran, Bento served as the program's recruiting coordinator as well as worked with the Orangewomen perimeter players and opponent scouting. In her four seasons at Syracuse, Bento coached two perimeter players who were invited to the WNBA pre-draft camp and one player who was invited to the USA Junior World Championship trials in Colorado Springs, Colo. Additionally, Bento's most recent recruiting class was ranked 15th by All-Star Girls Reports. Bento, who helped guide the Big East Conference all-star team to a 6-0 record in a summer tour of Germany in 2001, inherits a program that went 21-10 last season and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in five seasons. A 1992 graduate of Fresno State with a degree in physical education, Bento spent the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons as an assistant coach at her alma mater. As a player, Bento helped the Bulldogs to an appearance in the NIT in 1990, and was team captain and MVP of the 1991 squad. In addition, Bento played on the Fresno State softball team, and was named to the College World Series All-Tournament team in 1992. In the spring of 2000, Bento was invited to the WNBA Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago.
WCC Changes Basketball Tournament Format
The West Coast Conference Tournament will adopt a new format for the 2003 Championship, consisting of an eight-team/ play-in format. Under the new format, the fifth through eighth seeds will compete in the opening round. Waiting for the winners in the quarterfinals will be the third and fourth seeds, who will have first-round byes. The winners of the quarterfinal match-ups will go head-to-head with the top two seeds, who will have byes through the first two rounds of the tournament. "This format places a premium on regular season success and should lead to a very competitive regular season race in 2003." Commissioner Michael Gilleran said. This season's league championship will be held at the Jenny Craig Pavilion on the University of San Diego campus March 6-9. Beginning in 2004, the league will rotate the championship site regionally, visiting the Bay Area through 2005, the Northwest through 2007, and Southern California through 2009.
Exhibition Wrap Up
The Michelle Bento era unofficially began November 6 as Santa Clara raced to an 88-60 win over Bay Area Pro-Am, a local club team comprised of former college players. Bento, in her first season as the head coach of the Broncos, guided her new team through a variety of offensive and defensive sets in the team's first exhibition game of the preseason. Four SCU players scored in double figures and all nine Broncos scored. The telling statistic of the game, however, was Santa Clara's defensive effort that limited Pro-Am to just 32.4 percent shooting from the field and 26.7 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
Kendra Rhea led the Broncos in scoring with 17 points, while Julie Butler added 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Former Bronco Caroline Gruening scored 10 points for Pro-Am. Santa Clara bolted out to an 18-7 lead early in the game, before Bay Area Pro-Am went on an 11-0 run to tie the game at 18-apiece with 9:32 remaining in the first half. The Broncos went on a 6:26 scoring drought before Kim Butler connected on a short jumper in the lane to break the tie and give SCU a 20-18 lead. Santa Clara then went on a 16-8 run to close out the half with a 36-26 lead. Santa Clara broke open a tight game midway in the second half when Whitney Sutak connected on a driving left-handed lay-up in the lane with 9:03 left in the game to give the Broncos a 58-45 lead. The Broncos then outscored Pro-Am by a 30-15 margin to close out the 28-point victory.
Quinn Thomas connected on five of eight three-point field goal attempts en route to a game-high 21 points to lead Santa Clara to a 76-48 victory over Banksa Bystrica, a college team from Slovakia on November 15 at the Leavey Center. The win marked the final exhibition contest of the season for the Broncos. The Broncos raced out to a 30-7 lead in the opening 13:00 of the game, largely on a stellar defensive effort that limited the Slovakian team. Santa Clara shot 50.9 percent from the field in the game, which included an impressive 9-for-18 effort from behind the three-point arc. Four players scored in double-figures for SCU. In addition to Thomas, Tammy Annas pitched-in 18 points, Kim Butler scored 13 and Rhea added 12 in the win. Butler led the team with a game-high 15 rebounds. Santa Clara played without the services of a number of players, including Courtney Cushing and Julie Butler, due to injury.
2001-02 in Review
Santa Clara advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last five seasons with its selection to the 2002 Championships. As the West Region's 11th seed, Santa Clara opened the tournament against sixth-seeded Louisiana State. Santa Clara's at-large selection marked the fifth time since 1994 that the West Coast Conference had two teams in the big dance. Pepperdine, the West Region's eighth seed, earned the WCC's automatic bid by winning the league championship. Saint Mary's and San Francisco received invitations to the WNIT, marking the fourth straight year the league sent four teams to the postseason. Santa Clara finished the season ranked 10th nationally in assists (18.1), 19th in three-point field goal percentage (.373), 20th in three-point field goals per game (6.8), 21st in scoring offense (76.1), and 35th in free throw percentage (.741). Individually, Becki Ashbaugh ranked fifth in assists per game (7.3) and 22nd in free throw percentage (87.1) and Caroline Gruening ranked seventh in three-point field goal percentage (.449). Santa Clara completed the 2001-02 home season at the Leavey Center with a perfect 12-0 mark, becoming only the second team in program history to accomplish the feat. Ashbaugh finished her career with 646 assists, ranking second on the all-time league chart and becoming the first Bronco to notch 600 in a career and only the third in WCC history. She finished with 1,104 points while also becoming the first in Bronco history to notch 200 in one season.