by Patrick Nolan
SBJ Contributing Writer
This year's Lady Bears basketball team faces a difficult nonconference schedule, according to Coach Cheryl Burnett.
The Lady Bears will play opponents from the Big 12 (Baylor), the Big East (Providence), Pacific 10 (Southern California), Southeastern (Arkansas) and Western Athletic (Brigham Young) conferences. They also have 18 Missouri Valley Conference games scheduled.
Burnett is entering her 12th season as head coach of the Lady Bears and her 15th season at Southwest Missouri State University. Under her leadership, the women's basketball program has achieved national promience.
The Lady Bears squad returns several veterans to the court this season, including two seniors.
Yen Quach, a 5-foot-2 guard from Normal, Ill., and Roshonda Reed, a 6-foot guard/forward from Kansas City, Kan., are the two seniors on this year's team.
Quach led the team last year in assists (144) and was fourth in steals (41), minutes played (820, an average of 27.3 per game) and points (249, an average of 8.3 per game). Named the 1997-98 Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year, Quach is expected to take more of a leadership role this season.
Reed, who has started 78 of her 80 career games at SMSU, is the most experienced Lady Bear on the squad. She is the 13th player in SMS history to score 1,000 career points (1,047). She is expected to climb into SMS' top 10 in career rebounds (561), field goals (416), free throws (174) and free throw attempts (257).
"We're really going to have to ask Roshonda to be a tremendous leader for us," Burnett said. "She gives us great intensity and confidence."
Juniors Sarah Singer and Rachel Johnson are back for more this year, as are sophomores Jackie Stiles, Kimberly McDowell, Melody Campbell, Carly Deer and Starr Ryan.
Sophomore Tara Mitchem, a 5-foot-9 guard, is expected to make an immediate contribution to the team and compete strongly for a starting position in her first year of eligiblity with the Lady Bears, Burnett said.
Last year Mitchem worked out with the team and sat out the season after her transfer from Ohio State, where she played as a freshman.
Mitchem is a Springfield native who attended Glendale High School and was the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,136 points.
Competing with the Bears squad, the Lady Bears boast four talented freshmen, three of whom are more than 6 feet tall.
Freshman Ann Cavey, a 6-foot-3 center, is a rebounder who is expected to have a big impact on the front court.
Recruit Brandi Robinson, a 5-foot-11 forward from Atoka, Okla., is entering her first season with SMS, and Burnett said she has great potential and expects Robinson to put forth the effort to achieve.
"Brandi is a good dribble-driver who can handle the ball and will probably play the three (small forward) spot for us," Burnett said.
Dzenata Kadic, a 6-foot-5 center from Bosnia, and Katie Handley, a 6-foot-1 forward from Springfield, round out the team.
Fan support is very important to the Lady Bears, Burnett said.
"We're fifth in the nation for fan support," Burnett said.
"We'd like to get back to number one."
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