Boxers embrace rebuilding process
The Pacific women will learn to get by without departed senior and leading scorer DeeDee Arnall
The one constant in life, it is said, is change, and the Pacific women's basketball team will face plenty of it in the first year of the post-DeeDee Arnall era.
The Boxers bid farewell to the team's first All-American with her graduation in May. Now they must find a way to replace her 20 points and nine rebounds per game, not to mention replacing the competitive drive and fire that kept Pacific in many of its games over their last two seasons.
Fourth-year head coach Jeff Thompson believes that the departure of Arnall will open the door for not just one, but a number of players to move in and make their impact.
'We're at a point where we need players to step up and fill that role,' Thompson said. 'We had other players who did great things for us at certain times, but we need to see consistency from those players. We're working now on getting those players who are capable of eight to 10 points per night to be consistent for us every night.'
To help make that possible, Thompson has made radical changes to the way Pacific plays the game. The team will shift from a post-heavy offense to a more open style of play, allowing the guards to look for more scoring opportunities both by penetration and from the perimeter.
At least early on, the perimeter game may be all the Boxers have to rely on. The preseason has been hard on the team's four returning posts, with all of them sitting out with various injuries. Until Pacific can get the presence of Kaela Zarkovich and Kristina Stevens back, much of the scoring weight will fall to known perimeter threats in Amy Pedersen, Trisha Terhar and Sara Harsin.
The positive impact of those injuries has been the chance for Thompson to experiment with a number of different lineups, and the Boxers could put a variety of combinations on the floor as the season progresses.
'We have the potential for lots of people to be in the starting five,' Thompson said. 'We're excited about what we are able to put out on the floor, but we're even more excited that our players are playing well together as a team.'
Perhaps the best news for the Boxers is an incredible amount of depth at both the point guard and shooting guard positions. Pacific returns five guards from the 2005-06 campaign and brings two talented newcomers into the fold.
Ashley Stewart will see a considerable increase in minutes as the only pure point guard to return. Stewart played behind Megan Hildebrand last season, averaging 2.2 points per game and finished fifth on the team in steals after two years at Portland Community College.
Mallory Goldammer brings a wealth of experience to Pacific after two seasons with the Oregon state champion Southridge High School program. While experienced as a point guard, Goldammer's shooting prowess should give the Boxers some flexibility at the position.
'We feel that both of them defend well and push the basketball really well with those two and we should get some scoring out of them,' Thompson said.
Returners Shanna Rietmann and Terhar add increased depth. Rietmann played in 23 games off the bench last year, while Terhar, who started 24 of 25 games, will see more of her time at the shooting guard spot.
Pacific's new open style of play will open up more opportunities for a number of talented shooting guards. Pedersen leads the group after starting 22 games last season and averaging 8.5 points per contest. Thompson needs Pedersen to be a more consistent scorer and look for even more opportunities to shoot the ball. Thompson believes that Pedersen has the potential to develop into one of the team's most solid players.
'She does all of the little things,' Thompson said. 'She rebounds, she shoots, she defends. We're going to be asking her to give us more minutes.'
Likewise, Terhar will also be asked to increase her offensive production after averaging just under five points per game in her first year with the Boxers. With injuries to Pacific's post players, Terhar will be called upon to play just about every position on the floor and be the team's all-around athlete.
'I see her as our everything type of player,' Thompson said. 'Trisha, she can play the shooting guard, the point guard and the post. We would like to see her scoring go up and see her step things up defensively. She has the ability to be a defensive stopper.'
Harsin is poised for a breakthrough senior season after seeing limited minutes off the bench as a junior. Despite the limited playing time, Harsin proved to be a spark plug off the bench, averaging 7.2 points per game and finished with seven double-digit scoring performances.
'Sara has that potential to make things happen when she gets onto the floor,' Thompson said, 'and it's just a matter of channeling that energy in the right direction.'
Kami Shigematsu adds additional depth to the bench and saw spot time as a sophomore. Freshman Kayla Akers joins the Boxers after four years of varsity basketball in Richland, Wash. Another flexible performer, Akers could split time at both guard spots.
As Pacific's forwards get healthy, the corps has the possibility to develop into one of the better tandems in the conference. With the departure of Arnall, Thompson believes the time is right for those in the All-American's shadow to step up and blossom into impact players.
The list starts with Zarkovich, who was averaging nine points per game and gave the Boxers a potentially dangerous one-two post punch before an ankle injury ended her season seven games in. While the ankle is still not at 100 percent, Thompson said, the junior is hungry to be back on the floor and pick up where she left off.
'Kaela is the hardest worker on our team,' Thompson said. 'She wants to be on the floor so bad. She is a great defender and someone showed before she got hurt that she could score. We need her out there.'
With Zarkovich's injury, Stevens moved into the starting role and averaged 4.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. While still learning the college game, Stevens filled the small forward role admirably, earning more minutes as the season progressed.
'Kristina has been hindered by her ankle, but we're excited to see where she goes this year,' Thompson said. 'She filled in well when DeeDee needed time and I think she has the potential to have a good year for us.'
Jackie Olson saw her minutes limited last year with injuries, and could be out most of this season with similar injuries. Olson's 6-foot-2 frame could be a valuable asset if given the chance to see more playing time. Ashley Bellamy has developed well over the off-season and will see some more minutes at the small forward position.
Jenna Archibald is the lone freshman of the group, but brings with her some strong pedigree. The talented three-sport athlete earned league Most Valuable Player honors her senior year and was a three-time All-League selection. In addition, Archibald spent the fall playing for the Pacific volleyball team, which allowed her to enter the hoop season in great shape.
'Jenna is very athletic. She has lots of upside to her,' Thompson said. 'She is still learning the college game, but she gives me that glimpse of being a great athlete if we can fine tune things a bit.'