SOU women sharpen focus heading into league play

The Cascade Conference season hasn't tipped off yet, but the SOU women's basketball team already is pushing to exceed expectations.

Last month conference coaches selected the Raiders to finish in second place this season, predicting a good but not great season to come.

"Right now we are focusing game-to-game," SOU head coach Lynn Kennedy said. "I know that's coach speak, but being so young we can't look ahead. Staying focused night in and night out is our best chance of winning."

The Raiders play on the court suggests their head coach is on to something. Southern Oregon (5-4) came out of the gate with a bang, winning its first three games before dropping its next four.

"It's evident in our conference that on any given night either team can win," said senior guard Jamie Roupp. "We have long term goals "… but more than anything it's about showing up every night. I think the team that shows up every night is the one that will (win)."

In an effort to achieve the goal of winning the Cascade Conference and earning a postseason berth the Raiders will rely on a unique mixture of old and new.

SOU welcomes back Whitney Scott, a 2008-09 conference all-star who redshirted last season due to a blown ACL. Thrown into that mix are two Division I transfers: Roupp and Josi McDermott, both former Ashland High standouts. All three will add instant offense and court presence to a team that lost one of, if not the, best player in women's program history: All-American forward Jackie Speer.

The presence of those three, according to Kennedy, is really filling in the leadership role on the team. Scott can shoot from outside and has the speed to penetrate. McDermott is a natural small-forward, fast, lithe and rangy from the perimeter. Roupp is showing the willingness to do whatever it takes to win. While the points may not be there for Roupp, there is no statistic that measures her impact when it comes to ltered passes, defensive intensity and floor burns.

A turning point will be the production of the young players on the squad. Sophomore Alexi Smith and freshmen Kiara Moore provide an immediate, intimidating post presence and speedy guards Nalani Barnes and RaTanya Newsome offer an exciting change of pace in the front court.

"The new faces and types of players are great," Scott said. "We get to re-learn how to play together so incorporating new people is always exciting. The fresh look is really nice."

If everything comes together the way Kennedy thinks it can, then this season will be business as usual.

"Anyone of these girls is going to produce for us on a given night," he said. "Eventually other teams are going to have to worry about five, six or seven different weapons. This team knows how and when we need to produce and we have the players to pull that off."

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