New faces on display in Gophers’ opening exhibition

Paul Cordes

The Minnesota women’s basketball team will take the court tonight for the first time since five players bolted from the team last spring.

The Gophers will see their first competition of the year from Division II Winona State at 7 p.m. at Williams Arena.

The Warriors, who are picked to finish sixth in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, will be led by 6-foot 2-inch senior center Leslie Ross, who averaged 10.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last year.

But coach Pam Borton’s focus isn’t on the Warriors right now. She said she is much more concerned about her team and where it is during this part of the season.

“This time of the year, we’re more worried about ourselves,” she said. “My whole focus is on our team and it is usually around this time.”

After three weeks of practice, sophomore guard Emily Fox said she is very excited to finally get out on the court and start playing some games.

“We’ve got a brand new face to our team, so we are super-excited to show off all the new talent that we have,” she said. “We’ve been practicing really hard, so we’re really excited to play this first game.”

The new face Fox talked about includes the seven freshmen who have joined the team this year. That leaves a lot of questions as to a starting lineup, as well as how ready the underclassmen will be to play.

All that inexperience makes practice and exhibition games especially important for Minnesota, as players compete among each other for playing time.

Borton said she thinks the competition is healthy and she’ll use the exhibitions for playing different combinations together and seeing where the team is before it plays its first regular season game Nov. 10 against Northern Iowa.

“I think the more days go by, the clearer things become,” she said. “The more you put kids in a scrimmage situation, the clearer a starting five or a top seven becomes.”

Although the abundance of new players may lead to some rocky times this season, there is no doubt that the underclassmen are as ready as anybody to get out onto the court and start playing.

Freshman guard Brittany McCoy said she is ready to show people the new up-tempo and defensively strong team.

“I’m excited to just get stuff started,” she said. “We had a great summer together, a great preseason and a great couple of weeks of practice, and I think we’re ready to go and see what we’re made of.”

The exhibition game will be a telling sign as to where the Gophers are right now.

Borton said not all the offenses and defenses are in place, but she said she thinks it will be a good way to measure where her team is at.

Fox also said she thinks it will be a good way for people to see how well the team will handle the first part of the season, but said she thinks this will mean more to the team than anybody else.

“I think it’s important for us as a team to figure out where we are and where we want to be,” she said. “We have a chance to come out and make a statement in our first game, and we want to do that.”