Photo by Kyle McDonald
In the 2015-16 season, the Utah Valley University women’s basketball team accomplished two things that hadn’t been done in the history of the program. It finished the season with a record of 16-15, including an 8-6 mark in conference play. It was the first winning season since joining the Western Athletic Conference in 2013. The team finished its season off by winning its first conference tournament game, a 61-53 victory over Missouri-Kansas City.
This preseason, UVU was picked by the media to finish fifth in the WAC and picked to finish sixth by the WAC coaches. The team will be busy integrating seven newcomers, including five freshmen, to replace several players that departed over the offseason. Despite undergoing a significant amount of change, head coach Cathy Nixon still believes her team can build off of last year’s accomplishments.
“I think our team definitely hit some milestones last year,” said Nixon at WAC media day. “We have several players returning from that team that played impact roles and as they help the new players understand the expectation, we definitely can build on those successes we had last year.”
The key returning player from last year’s squad is junior guard Mariah Seals, who appears ready to step into more of a leadership role. Last season, Seals started all 31 games and averaged 11.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 34 minutes per game, which culminated in her being named to the All-WAC second team, as well as the All-Defensive team. Seals’ personal accolades continued this fall when she was voted by coaches and media into the preseason All-WAC team. Through it all, she has kept a team-first attitude.
“I think that those [individual achievements] are blessings for me, but I’m more focused on how I can help us win more than anything,” said Seals. “Those things don’t matter if we aren’t good as a team.”
A key graduating departure for the Wolverines is All-WAC center Sam Loggins. She will be replaced by a transfer with the same name, Sam Lubcke. She’s coming from the College of Southern Idaho, a junior college program that finished last season with a 29-5 record and a run to the second round of the NJCAA national tournament. While UVU hopes that Lubcke will be able to replace some of Loggins’ production, Nixon acknowledged that her game is quite different.
“Sam [Loggins] was such a force on the low block,” said Nixon at WAC media day. “Sam Lubcke is very crafty. She’s an Australian player and comes with that international flair to her game.”
With all of the youth coming in this season, it may be a building year for the Wolverines. However, it will be crucial for UVU to find a way to keep ahold of the momentum it gained last season, as it continues to make its presence known in the WAC this year.
I grew up on a farm in Burley, Idaho, but I’ve always had an intense love of sports. I’m studying journalism in an attempt to turn my love into a career. I’m a huge Utah Jazz, Tennessee Titans, and San Jose Sharks fan. If it’s a sport, I’ll watch it.