Forget The Pit renovations; there is a renovated team on south campus.
UNM women’s basketball is constructing a plan to get back into the NCAA tournament after a two-year hiatus in the WNIT.
Head coach Don Flanagan said he is optimistic about what he has seen in preseason workouts.
“Returning players have come back in good shape,” he said. “We have had five practices, because we are in a different set-up this year, but I am pretty happy. The progress has been good.”
Flanagan, however, must use new tools to qualify for his 14th straight postseason.
The Lobos have a combined 10 freshmen and sophomores on the 2010-11 roster.
Flanagan said he needs his young players to mature rapidly in preseason camp.
“We need to have them be able to play, and I think they can,” he said. “I think we are pretty deep, just not that experienced at some positions.”
Of the more experienced players, junior guard Sara Halasz will have to take over as one of the team’s unspoken leaders.
Halasz, who logged significant playing time beginning her freshman year, said she is eager to start the season.
“We’re kind of tired of beating up on each other, and it’s only the second week in practice,” she said. “I think we’re really confident, anxious, and we’re really ready to get in on competition. Everybody is really competitive on the court. And, I mean, the freshmen have come in strong, and so have the returning players.”
Despite advancing to the second round of the WNIT last season and the quarterfinals two years ago, Flanagan said the team has a renewed drive to get back to the NCAA tournament.
“Our expectation has been to always get back to the NCAA tournament,” he said. “I think those are the goals every year.”
Yet, with rising Mountain West Conference competition, the Lobos have not enjoyed the same amount of success the last two years.
Flanagan said his team lost focus last year in posting a 19-13 record.
“For some reason, last year, during the season at some point, we weren’t quite on task,” he said. “We played some really outstanding games and then some really average games. We’re hoping to be more consistent this year.”
Already, the redesigned Pit is a drawing card for the Lobos.
As of Tuesday, the ticket office had sold nearly 6,000 women’s season tickets.
Guard Amanda Best said she has already made herself at home in the Lobos’ improved stomping grounds.
“I took a tour with Coach Flanagan this summer in August, and it looked awesome,” she said. “I haven’t been in there since, but I am really excited to play in there. I picked out my seat and my locker.”