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Opens Exhibition Season Wednesday

Wendy Hedberg
Coach Wendy Hedberg

October 30, 2006

         (EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.) When Southern Illinois University Edwardsville women's basketball coach Wendy Hedberg announces her lineup Wednesday for the team's first exhibition game at Western Illinois, she isn't planning any big surprises.
         Hedberg returns two starters from last season's team, a handful of players who have made a significant number of starts, and a few newcomers with sizeable experience from other teams. Her mix of starters, quite simply, will be a fresh beginning from last season when the Cougars finished 13-14.
         SIUE faces Western Illinois in a 7 p.m. in Macomb with Hedberg and Assistant Coach Lee Green eager to see if off-season changes have made the Cougars a better team.
         Hedberg said she told the players well in advance of the season to be ready for a change of pace. "We have a lot of returning players back. We expect to be better with all of the young players," she said.
         SIUE's leading scorer Whitney Sykes (Pontoon Beach) returns for her third season. Sykes, who averaged 10.1 points per game, is on track to break the school record for three-pointers made after hitting 125 in her first two seasons as a Cougar.
         "She goes out there and does her job every day," said Green. "She's consistently unbelievable."
         Amy Austin (Jeffersonville, Ind.) joins Sykes in the backcourt. She averaged 3.3 assists per game last season. "She worked very hard in the off-season. She's been real self-motivated to become better," said Hedberg.
         Julianne McMillen (Pana), affectionately nicknamed after her hometown, looks to have a solid senior season after averaging 9.0 points and 4.8 rebounds a contest last season. "She's playing with a lot of confidence now. I think she's going to have a great season," said Hedberg.
         SIUE has four other seniors on the roster. Hedberg said she expects Laura Witherspoon (Moline) and Shardae Butler (East St. Louis) will sit out the 2006-2007 season and be back next year. Hedberg will look to the other two seniors Krystal Rosengren (Marseilles) and Jamie Kennedy (Colfax) to make a difference for the Cougars as the season progresses.
         Hedberg returns three players who gained invaluable experience as freshman last season.
         Deidra Dace (St. Louis) finished as the team's leading rebounder with 5.3 caroms per game. Certainly a player unafraid to drive into the lane, Hedberg said Dace has worked in the off-season to improve her game in all areas.
         Becky Tenholder (St. Louis) appeared in 23 games last season, blocking 16 shots, the same, team-leading number as Rosengren.
         Allison Fogle (Seminole, Fla.) became another three-point threat along with Sykes after hitting 47 treys last season and posting the top three-point percentage at 35.3 percent.
         Hedberg's off-season recruiting resulted in the addition of three Division I transfers and an incoming freshman.
         Amber Shelton (Edwardsville) returns to the area where she helped Carrollton High School to two Class A state championships and Edwardsville High School to two Class AA state tournament appearances.
         Shelton averaged 12 points a game last season for Illinois State and provides an important frontcourt weapon. "We have to make sure she gets as many touches as possible. I think she can help us open up opportunities for several others on the team," said Hedberg.
         Elyse Morris (Prophetstown), a junior, has proven to be a team leader in her first preseason as a Cougar after transferring from SIU Carbondale. Hedberg said the team chose Austin along with newcomers Morris and Shelton as the team's captains.
         Julie Sweetin (Benton), a sophomore, enters SIUE after playing for Southeast Missouri State. Sweetin is high-energy, noted Hedberg, and gives the Cougars yet another target for three-pointers.
         Bethany Lee (Peoria), a freshman, is being pushed by her teammates to lift up her game to another level after posting a strong prep career at Peoria Dunlap High School. "She's responding well," said Hedberg.
         The Cougars also play an exhibition game at Indiana State on Nov. 8 before beginning the regular season at home on Nov. 15 against Illinois-Springfield.
                  -siue cougars-

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