‘Nova women ready for catfight with top teams

Here’s a look at what the Wildcats and Villanova fans can expect in the Big East:


With the experience the Huskies have, it’s hard not to rank them as the number one team on an annual basis, despite dead-heat ties in the projected standings.

This year will mark the 10th consecutive year the Huskies will be chosen to win the regular season title. What may hinder their aspirations, however, is the lack of returning starters. Junior All-American Diana Taurasi is the only returning starter.

Notre Dame

A constant force in women’s basketball, the Irish are hoping for victory with assistance from senior guard Alicia Ratay and sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast, both of whom were Big East Preseason first team players. Joining them in the backcourt will be juniors Le’tania Severe and Janika Joyce. Severe started 24 games last year, averaged 6.6 points per game and was seventh among conference players in assists. Last season Notre Dame advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament to complete its ninth straight 20-win season, a trend they expect to continue this year.

Boston College

The Eagles advanced to last year’s Big East championship final for the first time since 1987. The Eagles are given much anticipation this season, as they bring back a veteran and experienced staff. Seniors Kim Mackie and Becky Gottstein are expected to play leader roles for the Eagles. The true leaders, however, will be Amber Jacobs and fifth year senior Brianne Stepherson, who were the only two players to play in all 31 games last season. The Eagles are depending on sophomores Clare Droesch and Jessalyn Deveny for contributions off the bench.


Individual achievements are welcomed to the women’s squad, as senior guard Trish Juhline was named to the first team of the Preseason Big East team.

This just followed Juhline’s trend of recognition, as she was the first Villanova women’s basketball player to earn first team All-Conference honors since Dennis Dillon in ’95. In 24 games, Juhline averaged a team-high 13.6 points to go along with 3.1 assists per game. Coming off a third place finish in the Big East conference, the Wildcats expect another competitive season ahead of them. They also advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season for the second straight year.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech had its fifth consecutive postseason appearance, finishing with a 21-11 record and advancing to the semifinals of the WNIT last season. Five letter winners and two starters return this season. Virginia Tech expects leadership from the Big East’s 2001-2002 most improved player, center Ieva Kublina. Also joining her in the frontcourt will be juniors Erin Gibson and Davina Simmons.


A strong roster and weak results seems to be the story of Rutgers’ sports in general. Last year was no different for the women’s basketball team, as they suffered a disappointing 9-20 record. An increased roster and the return of four of the top five starters will hopefully assist the Scarlet Knights in having a successful season. The secret weapon for Rutgers will be sophomore Cappie Pondexter, who was voted national high school player of the year in 2001. She was forced to sit out last season due to NCAA ineligibility.


Miami finished 19-12 overall with a fifth-place showing in the Big East last season (10-6). Experience is on Miami’s side this time around, as they have nine letter winners returning, including four starters. They are focusing on having a balanced team this year, with strength on both the perimeter and the post. Senior guard Megan Saake will maintain her leadership role for the Hurricanes.

Joining Saake in the backcourt this season will be junior Hutashi Wilson, who averaged 5.6 points last season over 21 games. Freshmen Tamara James will vie for playing time, a fourth team Parade Magazine All American.

West Virginia

West Virginia is the only conference team with all five starters returning. This, along with a recruiting class that is ranked 16th in the nation, should provide for a strong basketball squad. Kate Bulger, the Big East’s second leading scorer, will lead the team of veterans. Considered a strong all-around player, Bulger averaged 3.6 rebounds to go along with 76 three-pointers, 58 assists, 28 steals and 27 blocks. Joining Bulger in the backcourt will be junior Sherell Sowho and sophomore Yolanda Paige.


In Big East play, the Orangewomen finished tied for sixth with a 9-7 record and ran through the conference tournament all the way to the semifinals. Six letter winners are returning, including a strong backcourt. Junior Julie McBride returns after a standout sophomore season in which she earned All-Big East Third Team honors, ranking in the top 10 in scoring, assists and steals.

Seton Hall

The Pirates will be one of the more veteran teams in the Big East this year. Forward Leslie Ardon averaged 13 points and over seven rebounds a game before being plagued with a knee injury. This year the Pirates will be dependent on her to perform at an all-around level, being effective from both the perimeter and the post. The Pirates are also looking for significant contributions from junior forward Charlene Thomas.