You could say that West Virginia's women's basketball team exceeded expectations last season.
Despite losing four starters from the previous year's team, including the program's seventh all-time leading scorer, Liz Repella, the Mountaineers notched 24 wins on the season before being knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round by top-seeded Stanford.
This offseason, Mike Carey will have the luxury of getting most of the players back from that young team, and the opportunity to build upon the modest WVU achieved last season.
Not everything is as it was last season at this time, though. Just like the men, the women are enjoying their first full season in the brand new practice facility behind the Coliseum, and they've been taking advantage of it early on during summer break.
"Summer school, you know all of our players come back for summer school, started on (May 21)," Carey said, "and I've seen them going into the facility, working out, and getting with our strength coach, so it's been exciting. They love coming over. They really do."
It had been well-documented before the new facility had opened that the Coliseum was not always available for the university's two basketball programs to hold practices or workouts. Normally at this time of year, it can be especially difficult to find any time on the court, so the new building has been a nice change for Carey and his team.
"I've seen our players getting in there a lot more
right now than they have in the past," he said, "and in the Coliseum,
it really wasn't their fault, but they're still set up for graduation. There's
high school graduations going on in there now and the floor's not set up, so
there really wasn't a place to get on and work out."
With the new addition to this year's WVU team, the players may need all of the strength and conditioning they can get. Carey has once again added a player from LSU to his team. First, it was Ayana Dunning, who saw increased playing time last year on her way to 8.3 points per game.
This year, another big body will move from Baton Rouge to become a Mountaineer. Krystal Forthan played in 28 games as a freshmen for LSU last season, but will have to sit out her first season in Morgantown due to NCAA transfer rules. Still, she should be a big help for Dunning and Asya Bussie during practice.
"Krystal's still got some finishing up to do at LSU," Carey said, "so we're hoping that gets done soon and we can get her here on campus, but that gives us another big body at practice at 6-foot-4- Asya Bussie and Ayana Dunning, and now that gives us another big body."
With WVU joining the Big XII in just a few weeks, Carey has been preparing for a different style of play- mainly trying to find some bigger bodies to deal with the increased size his team will see this season.
"We go against guys all the time anyway," he said, "so now I'm going out and trying to recruit- you know, the Big XII's a little bigger than the Big East size-wise- so I'm going around campus looking for 6'5" or 6'6" guys that aren't on the men's team, trying to get them to be our practice players."
These minor changes are just pleasant additions to an offseason that already offered promise. With a new practice facility, a few new faces, and almost an entire team returning, it could be an exciting season for Carey and his Mountaineers.