The Gophers women’s basketball team opens its regular season against Lamar at Williams Arena on Sunday at 2 p.m. Even though the Cardinals come from a mid-major, the Southland Conference, they are expected to give the Gophers an early test. “They’re a respected team within their league and within their area,âÄù Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. âÄú They’re a very well-coached team and a team that knows how to win, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.” Lamar was the coaches’ preseason pick to win the Southland ConferenceâÄôs West Division. The Cardinals also feature three preseason all-conference selections in seniors Brittney Williams and Darika Hill, and Jenna Plumley, a junior transfer from Oklahoma. The Gophers open the season still looking to put their 64-62 exhibition home loss to Winona State behind them, a loss coach Borton says will stay with the team for a long time. Minnesota, however, still comes into the regular season with positive momentum following a 77-45 beatdown of Minnesota-Duluth last Sunday. The Gophers return four starters from last season, including their trio of senior captains in Brittany McCoy, Katie Ohm and Ashley Ellis-Milan. Sophomore Jackie Voigt also returns as a starter as she looks to continue to improve following a successful freshman season. Making her regular season debut in the Minnesota starting lineup is sophomore Kiara Buford. Buford may just be getting used to a starting role, but the Gophers have high expectations for the guard as shown in the first two exhibition games in which she led the team in scoring with point totals of 18 and 19, respectively. “The sky is the limit [for Buford],” Borton said. “I don’t think there is anything I don’t expect from Kiara. At the end of her career I’ll be sitting up here talking about how she’s a coachâÄôs dream.” Minnesota will look for Buford and the rest of the squad to have solid performances on Sunday to get the season started in the win column in the GophersâÄô first ever head to head matchup with Lamar.