Taking the right steps

The Portland State women’s basketball team has not dominated the Big Sky Conference since 1999, when it lost to Cal State Northridge in the conference championship game.

The Portland State women’s basketball team has not dominated the Big Sky Conference since 1999, when it lost to Cal State Northridge in the conference championship game. However, third-year head coach Charity Elliott said she thinks that she has built an extremely competitive team that may change women’s basketball at Portland State forever.

“This team, for the next three years, will be competing for a conference championship. If not, I have done something wrong,” Elliott said. “The pieces are finally in place and will be that way for a long time.”

This past season, the women’s basketball team finished with a 12-18 overall record and an 8-8 mark against conference foes. Although they only made a two-game improvement in conference play, Elliott’s team was able to make its second trip to the Big Sky playoffs. As the sixth seed for the second straight year, the Vikings made very little noise in the playoffs, getting knocked out in the first round by Weber State, 67-77.

Sophomore forward Kelsey Kahle continued to develop her already-stellar game, leading the team with 18.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Kahle’s shining moment came in an 80-72 victory over Sacramento State when she scored a career-high 41 points. The sophomore sensation finished below only two players for the conference scoring title and stood as the sixth-best rebounder in the Big Sky. On the defensive end, Kahle helped lead Portland State with a conference best of 2.87 steals per game. As one of the leaders of the team, Elliott is expecting her top forward to lead with more than just her game.

“Kelsey and Delaney [Conway] have both been in that leadership role, and those two know exactly what we are trying to do. I expect even more vocal leadership from them during the offseason and into next year,” Elliott said.

Three freshmen made their presence felt as the team started falling into sync by season’s end. Freshman point guard Claire Faucher was the best in class, showcasing her incredible skill at passing and running the offense. In only 21 games and 12 starts, Faucher averaged 8.1 points, 5.8 assists and 2.28 steals per game. The success of the young point guard earned Big Sky attention, leading to Big Sky Freshman of the Year honors.

Freshman center Janie Bos showed a flair for quick scoring when given a chance, and averaged 8.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game coming off the bench. On the opposite side, freshman Erin Yankus, also a center, played excellent defense and earned Elliott’s eye for 14 starts last season. Yankus averaged 5.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, not as impressive as her counterpart, but started because of her hustle on defense.

All three freshmen have a lot to work on as the next season approaches, but the team’s on-court leader has been impressed with the work they have all put in so far.

“They continue to impress us all the more they work and the better they get,” Kahle said. “I think they will be a huge factor next year as they will continue to develop as players and role models on the team.”

Bos will need to learn how to play better defense if she wants to get some starting time. Also, Yankus will be expected to develop her back-to-the-basket power moves if she wants to retain her spot. All three freshmen will be expected to get faster and stronger during the summer workouts. Kahle said she feels that experience and an extra year of work will really help the Vikings succeed next year.

“We had people playing in the playoff game this year–they didn’t have experience in that situation in college before,” Kahle said. “I think that next year we won’t have to rely on the new freshmen coming in. We will be deep as a team and deep enough to not have to put a lot of pressure on the younger kids.”