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Beavers start all over again.

Byline: Bob Rodman The Register-Guard

CORVALLIS - In her first year as a head coach and first season at Oregon State, LaVonda Wagner reversed the Beaver program's misfortunes.

The cupboard, it seems, was not bare.

With few newcomers, OSU halted the misery of a 6-23 season and 1-17 Pac-10 Conference record in 2004-05 with a 10-win improvement, finishing 16-15 last season.

Expected to place last in the league, Oregon State grabbed seventh with a 7-11 record and earned a spot in the Women's NIT.

That cupboard now, however, really is all but bare.

One returning starter, 6-foot-1 senior guard Casey Nash, rests atop OSU's 2006-07 roster, one that contains just nine players after Tiffany Ducker, a 6-1 forward, opted to leave the team for personal reasons earlier this month.

"We are very new," said Wagner, whose team contains five true freshmen. "With one starter coming back, it's a new day.

"We are not big and we are not deep. We are starting over and we can't hang our hat on what we did last year."

Ducker's departure hurts. The junior started all 31 of OSU's games, led the team with 49 blocked shots and 61 steals, and was second to Nash (7.2) in rebounding with a 6.6 average.

Which is why Wagner made it clear as the Beavers began practicing today at Gill Coliseum for the season opener against Southern Utah on Nov. 11 (preceded by exhibition games against Team Concept on Nov. 1 and Western Oregon on Nov. 5 at Gill) that "the goal is to get the returners to step up and the freshman class to contribute right away."

Among the six newcomers is Ashley Allen, a 5-10 redshirt junior guard who transferred to Oregon State after playing two years at Oregon.

She was enrolled at Oregon State last year and practiced with the Beavers.

The five freshmen include the tallest player on the OSU roster - 6-2 forward Whitney Champlin.

Other first-year players are forwards Stacey Nichols (6-1) and Judie Lomax (5-11) and guards Jasmine Smith (5-8) and Julie Futch (5-8).

Nash is joined by two other returners who combined for no starts last season - 5-8 senior guard Ebony Young, whose career has been plagued by injuries, and 5-8 sophomore guard Mercedes Fox-Griffin.

Young played in just eight games last year, Fox-Griffin 29.

"As a senior, I'm going to have to lead," Nash said, "lead with defense, rebounding and scoring." She averaged seven points a game last season, the most of the three returnees.

"We expect her to help us," said Wagner, in the second year of a five-year contract currently worth about $220,000 a season. "Casey knows what it takes."

Gone is 88 percent of Oregon State's scoring, 78 percent of its assists and 65 percent of its rebounding.

"This will be a year of sacrificing," said Wagner, whose team plays seven of its first eight games at Gill, "and I will take all of the blame and none of the credit."

Last season, the Beavers held opponents to 61.2 points per game, fourth-best in the Pac-10, and led the league in three-point field goal defense at 28.3 percent.

After last season's resurgence, it might be a mistake to write off the Beavers.

"We will work hard, hang our hat on defense, try to get the easy transition baskets. After all," Wagner said, "you only have to score one more point than the other team."
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Title Annotation:Sports; After a resurgence last season, OSU returns only one starter
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 14, 2006
Previous Article:OSU WOMEN'S OUTLOOK.

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