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Youthful Team Lifts Cougars


October 28, 2004


         "Experienced" is not going to be the first word out of the mouth of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville women's basketball coach Wendy Hedberg as she describes her 2004-2005 team.
         With two seniors on the team, neither of whom have been regular starters over the last three seasons, the Cougars will look to a young team. Some of those players are battle-tested in the Great Lakes Valley Conference and others are a solid group that has been highly successful at other levels.
         "Every player can contribute to this team," said Hedberg. "We're going to start three different lineups during the exhibitions and take a look at who plays better with who."
         Seniors Annie Miller (West Salem, Wis.) and Sara Unterbrink (Madison, Mo.) have a combined five starting assignments in six combined years with the Cougars. Hedberg said both Miller and Unterbrink are playing the best basketball of their careers right now. Both see their senior season as a chance to finish well.
         Hedberg won't be looking in any one person's direction when talking about leadership. This year's Cougars have a handful of players eager for a breakout season.
         Tanya Guell (Plymouth, Wis.), a 6-foot-1-inch junior, is the team's top returning scorer with 13.0 points per game and second in rebounds with 4.3 per contest.
         "We're looking for her to be a force down low," said Hedberg. "She is very capable with good moves around the basket."
         Julianne McMillen (Pana) was averaging double figures in scoring and rebounding before a mid-season injury cut her effective playing time. She rallied to average 10.1 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds per game.
         Hedberg thinks the sophomore is capable of being only the second Cougar player in the last 25 years to average a double-double over the course of a season. The last player to do that was Kim Lowe in 1997-1998. Lowe was an All-American the next season.
         Amber Wisdom (Geneseo) returns for her junior season after leading the Cougars in assists with 96 in 2003-2004. "I think this is the best preseason Amber has had since she arrived," Hedberg said.
         Jamie Kennedy (Colfax) also returns looking for playing time in the backcourt. She played in 24 games last season and averaged 2.1 point per game.
         Hedberg will look to a talented group of newcomers to add some spark to the lineup.
         Tiffany Sproat (Fairview Hts.) and Whitney Sykes (Pontoon Beach) played high school basketball last season just miles from one another at Belleville East High School and Granite City High School, respectively.
         "Sproat attacks the basket and the offensive boards," said Hedberg. "Sykes is a great shooter, but I think her best attribute is her passing."
         Amy Austin (Jeffersonville, Ind.) joins Sproat and Sykes in the Cougars' freshman class. Austin was an All-Stater in Indiana for Jeffersonville High School. Hedberg said she'll be a combination point and off guard who is a very athletic defender.
         Lindy Carey (Ft. Wayne, Ind.) is a transfer from IUPU-Ft. Wayne. Hedberg said Carey is an offensive-minded player with a good three-point range.
         Alisa Carrillo (Santa Ana, Calif.) is a transfer from Orange Coast College, a junior college in California. Carrillo was a team Most Valuable Player last season after averaging 17.2 points per game.
         The Cougars are coming off an 11-17 record. SIUE struggled in losing five of its final six games but played one of its best games of the season in a 53-49 GLVC Tournament loss to Quincy, which went on to compete in the NCAA Elite Eight.
         This season, the Cougars are courting a high-challenging schedule. SIUE opens the exhibition season on Nov. 6 at Bradley followed by trips to Western Illinois on Nov. 8 and Southeast Missouri State on Nov. 12.
         SIUE opens the regular season on Nov. 16 at the Vadalabene Center against Robert Morris. The Cougars begin the GLVC season at home on Nov. 26 against Lewis.
         SIUE has two tournaments planned on opposite ends of the country. The Cougars play Concord on Nov. 19 and Fairmont State on Nov. 20 in Athens, W.V. On Dec. 19, SIUE faces West Texas A&M followed by Harding on Dec. 20. Both of those games will be played at the Hoops N' Surf Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii.
        
                  -siue cougars-

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