SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - With season opening next week, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team is geared up and ready to go. The Gauchos have eight players returning, including three starters, from last year's Big West Championship team. The women will utilize their experience and look to build upon the team's success from last season.
"I think the easiest adjustment in the second year is we have upperclassmen that know the system," second-year head coach Carlene Mitchell said. "It allows them to be more confident and be leaders to the younger players we have on the team."
The Gauchos have four seniors on the team this season that will provide leadership and that were big contributors on last year's squad.
Kirsten Tilleman was named the Big West Tournament's Most Valuable Player last year after scoring 16 points and posting 11 rebounds in the title game. She led the team in rebounds, blocked shots, and minutes as the dominating presence inside for UCSB.
"Kirsten is just the ultimate team player," Mitchell said. "She does all the blue-collar work and we're going to ask her to score a little bit more for us this year."
Senior Sweets Underwood is another post-presence inside for the Gauchos who averaged 7.7 points and 7 rebounds per game last year while averaging 25.7 minutes.
"She brings a lot of energy to the floor, and has tremendous athletic ability," Mitchell said. "She's a player that can easily have a double-double every night."
Versatile Angelei Aguirre is healthy this season and will be a force at the guard position. She can play multiple positions, handle the ball and has the ability to post up smaller guards.
"Due to her injuries in the past, we never got to see her at her best," Mitchell said. "She has really stood out in preseason and we're excited about her versatility."
Destini Mason rounds out the seniors on the team and adds to the depth at the guard spot. She saw action in 32 games last year, starting 25 of them.
"All of our returners have improved their games individually, which is what we asked them to do," Mitchell said. "With all of them having improved, it helps our team be the best it can be. They understand the expectations of the program and the expectations that I have of them. They will all have an impact in a positive way."
Junior Nicole Nesbit was named the Big West Sixth Player of the Year last season while also earning Big West Honorable Mention. She is a very athletic player and has a knack for finding the ball. She picked up 27 steals last season and was second on the team in scoring, averaging 8.2 points per game. Nesbit will pick up where she left off last season and be a major factor for UCSB.
The Gauchos welcome three new additions to the squad in freshmen Jasmine Ware, Jessica Pino and Kendra Morrison. Ware adds a strong defensive presence to the team while Morrison has great perimeter shooting and passing ability. Pino has been plagued by injury thus far, but will try to get into the rotation later in the season.
UCSB will rely on a team effort night in and night out to be successful this season. They posses a lot of talent and experience and will stress strong defensive play all year.
"Currently everyone is adjusting to their new roles," Mitchell said. "My goal for us is to be playing our best basketball come March."
The Gauchos open the 2012-13 season on Monday, Nov. 5 when they host an exhibition against Vanguard at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.
Season tickets for both the men's and women's teams are available from the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, by calling 805-893-UCSB (8272) or online by clicking here for men's season tickets and here for women's season tickets.
UCSB is proud to announce that it is celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Thunderdome (#thunderdome35) over the next two seasons and as part of the celebration all season ticket holders will receive commemorative season tickets that will showcase some of the greatest players to wear the blue and gold and some of the greatest moment in the buildings history. The 2012 season tickets will feature great players.