Lady Raiders Begin 2000-01 Season

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NCAA.com Wire
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Oct. 10, 2000

LUBBOCK, Texas - The Texas Tech women's basketball team will begin the 2000-01 season with its first practice being held on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 12:30 p.m. in the practice gym at the United Spirit Arena.

Fans wanting to watch practice on Saturday should enter the United Spirit Arena at the northwest ground level entrance and then go downstairs to the back gym.

This year's Lady Raider basketball team will be entering the season with one of the best freshmen recruiting classes in Texas Tech history.

This comes after a near Cinderella season where, once again, the Lady Raiders shocked the nation after making it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament last season. Preseason polls had predicted them to finish fifth in the Big 12.

However, the year was full of many new records and accomplishments. The Lady Raiders earned a place as being one of Texas Tech's best teams, including the 1993 national championship team. The road was a tough one, but in the end, they overcame all odds. To recap on the 1999-2000 season:

The Lady Raiders shattered Tech's home attendance records in the new United Spirit Arena. They also ranked second in the nation in attendance.

The team won all 16 home games, allowing Tech to have the fourth longest home-court streak in the nation.

For the third straight time, the Lady Raiders won the Big 12 regular-season title. They shared the title with Oklahoma and Iowa State. Also, they earned a berth to the NCAA tournament and went to the Elite Eight for the third time in school history.

And finally, freshman Plenette Pierson was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

Should we have lofty expectations for this upcoming season? I doubt it, seeing that Coach Marsha Sharp is known for turning any weak team into a phenomenon. And, with the credentials of a freshman class, paired up with the returning players-- another successful season is only steps away.

"Our freshman come with a lot of experience on the national level of competition from AAU basketball and programs where they understood how to win," Sharp said. "Those are the tangibles that are important as they make their transitions to Division I."

Candi White, a point guard from Seward County Community College, was the nation's junior college leader in assists. She will help lead the point guard position along with guards Natalie Ritchie from Amarillo and Jia Perkins from Granbury.

Freshman Casey Jackson from Amarillo will play forward, and freshmen Dionne Brown from Georgetown and Jolee Ayers from Canyon will contribute as posts.

"I am so excited to watch them as a group," Sharp said, "it is so hard to tell until you get them all together who is going to be the player who will have the most immediate impact and I think all five will have a chance to do that."

The Lady Raiders will have two returning starters: sophomore Plenette Pierson will look to have another solid offensive season along with senior Katrisa O'Neal, her defensive skills are among the best in the nation.

"Katrisa is a big part of this team," Sharp said. " She has great leadership skills and understands what it takes to be at the level we want to be at."

Juniors Tanisha Ellison and Amber Tarr were vital in last season as reserves, and will be major contributors this year.

"Tanisha brings you the inside strength and Amber Tarr's perimeter play will compliment our post players inside," Sharp said. "I think the experience they gained in the NCAA Tournament last season was great and the fact that they played so well."

Sophomore posts, Jamie Nagle and Alison Cudnoski, will be back. Cudnoski is coming off a two-year lapse after suffering two major knee injuries that sidelined her.

Something most fans will look forward to this year is the Lady Raider schedule. The schedule is fierce and competitive, featuring some of the nation's best teams.

"Our schedule is really purposely competitive because I thought since we were really inexperienced, that if you put them against tough competition early...it will make them better for Big 12 play," Sharp said.

However, Coach Sharp said she does like the Big 12 schedule better since they get to open at home, and don't have to go on the road with the two teams they eventually shared the title with last season.

As a tradition, the Lady Raiders use this as a measuring step: win 20 games, be in the top of the Big 12 Conference, play in the NCAA Tournament, and reach the Sweet 16. Coach Sharp said these goals are constant and out there every year.

By the end of the season, with the emergence of an outstanding rookie class, mixed with the experience of returning players and a coach like Marsha Sharp-expect history to repeat itself.




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