Nevada women to open season |

Nevada women to open season

Sierra Nevada Media Group

High expectations for the 2006-07 season await Lady Pack hoops coach Kim Gervasoni and her players today as they host Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the season opener for both teams

The teams tip-off at 5 p.m. at the Lawlor Events Center. Fans who have a ticket stub from the Nevada-Utah State football game will be admitted free.

After the Pack toppled Humboldt State Sunday in an exhibition game, Gervasoni said she can’t wait for the season to begin.

“It will be an interesting game. We both play similar styles,” the fourth-year coach said. “I anticipate a track meet.”

McQueen grad Traci Graham (5-7), now in her fourth year, paced the Lady Pack with 16 points in the Humboldt game. Brandi Fitzgerald (5-10) and Dellena Criner (5-7) each scored 11 points. As a team, Nevada shot 45.5 percent from the floor.

Gervasoni said junior forward Cherlanda Franklin (5-11) and Jessica Preslar (6-1), along with Graham, provide the team’s leadership.

“They are definitely the backbone of our team,” she said.

Nevada, which finished last season with a 13-17 record and 8-8 in the WAC, is picked to finish third in the conference. Gervasoni said the team’s depth shows a big improvement, and she will use 10 to 12 players each game including Saturday’s encounter with the Mustangs.

“There’s no comparison in depth and athleticism. Last year we were seven to eight deep. This 3 we’re 10 to 12 deep,” Gervasoni pointed out. “We’ll use that depth to wear our opponents down.”

Cal Poly will be shooting for its fifth straight win in a season opener, but that’s a statistic Gervasoni said she would like to see come to an end.

“I haven’t thought about that,” Cal Poly coach Faith Mimnaugh said of the modest streak.

The 10-year veteran coach said she wanted to schedule tough opponents before league begins, and the Pack fit the criteria.

“”They are an athletic team and well coached,” Mimnaugh said. “And they are bigger than we are.”

Mimnaugh is no stranger to the Nevada basketball program. Her teams faced the Lady Pack in the late 1990s when both teams competed in the Big West.

The Mustangs return nine players including two starters from last year’s 13-14 team. Cal Poly finished third in the Big West at 7-7. Returning to the Mustangs are senior Jennifer Eggleston (6-1) and starting point guard Sparkle Anderson (5-2).

“Eggleston is a returning all-conference, athletic forward. We need to keep her in front of us and make her take the tough shots,” Gervasoni said.

Eggleston led Cal Poly in scoring with an 11.8-point per game average and hauled down an average of 8.1 rebounds.

Mimnaugh said Eggleston has improved her game from last year.

“She’s in the mix for player of the year,” Mimnaugh said. “Jessica’s a playmaker, puts down her 3s and is a monster on the boards.”

Anderson led the Big West with 4.07 assists per game last season.

“She’s little but extremely fast. We also need to keep her in front of us,” Gervasoni said. “We must play good position defense on her.”

Mimnaugh said Anderson led Cal Poly in scoring Wednesday as the Mustangs defeated the Australian Institute of Sport team, 85-77. Anderson tallied 19 points in 21 minutes.

“She was hitting on her open jump shots, and she’s super quick,” Mimnaugh said.