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November 5, 2010

WVU women try to stay grounded

MORGANTOWN — A year ago, West Virginia University’s women’s basketball team was the surprise team of the Big East. Picked to finish ninth in preseason polls, the Mountaineers won 29 games and reached the Big East final only to run out of gas in the second half against the national championship Connecticut team.

This year the Mountaineers are picked to finish 11th … not in the Big East but in both national polls.

As they take the floor at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Coliseum in an exhibition game against Fairmont State, they do so with their coach harping on them to forget about the polls and the press clippings.

“I didn’t discuss it with them last year when we were picked ninth. I did not discuss this year when we were picked second in the Big East. I don’t do that,” Coach Mike Carey said.

He understands, though, that his ladies do not exist in a cocoon and that they can tend to get a bit ahead of themselves.

“We went through little of that last week,” Carey said. “Last year we won 29 games. This year we haven’t won a game, so I don’t know why we think we can come out here and not go hard. Nobody cares that we go 0 and 29. Nobody is going to lay down for us because we won last year.”

And so it is that the intensity has been turned up in practice, Carey’s booming voice echoing throughout the Coliseum.

“I told them the other day it seems we’re not as hungry as we were last year. It’s my job to get them hungry,” Carey said, adding, “We’ve had some interesting practices.”

You can bet on it.

There are some problems as Carey’s team takes on Fairmont State, the most pressing being that Sarah Miles, the engine that runs the offense, is out after hand surgery.

“Sarah is scheduled to get cast off Tuesday,” Carey said. “I’m trying to move it to Friday; if I have to cut it off, I will. We need to get it off so we can start rehabbing. She won’t be ready for the first game.”

Carey will also be without another returning starter, Corrine Campbell.

“Campbell has a bad ankle sprain,” Carey said. “She was on crutches and her ankle was in a boot. We’ve got swelling down a little, but I don’t know when she will be ready to play.”

With Myles out, Carey will go with a true freshman, Brooke Hampton, at the point.

“She’s still trying to learn when to push, when not to,” Carey observed. “This is valuable experience for her right now. When Sarah comes back we’ll have two point guards capable of going in and playing.”

And the steadying influence is the veteran Liz Repella, who swings from guard to forward, can rebound, score and pass.

The pieces are there for WVU’s women’s team, and Carey knows it.

“I think we have a chance to be good because we have a lot of people back that went through it last year, but we have to prove we’re good. We’ll be able to do that early in the year in the Virgin Islands, playing Iowa State, Virginia and TCU.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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