Healthy team looking for explosive start

Athletes, head coach raising bar with more depth, experience after last season’s postseason run


OLIVER McKENNA | The Daily Evergreen

Sophomore guard Chanelle Molina warms up for the three-point contest at ZZU Mania on Oct. 24. WSU women’s basketball begins its season against University of California, Davis on Nov. 10.

AVERY COOPER, Evergreen reporter

WSU women’s basketball is ready to start its season after finishing last year with a 16-20 overall record, and 6-12 in Pac-12 play. However, the Cougars were able to reach the Final Four of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) despite losing many players to injury.

“Last year, when the injury bug hit us, not once, not twice, but four times, there were 60 points sitting on the bench next to me,” WSU Head Coach June Daugherty said. “Those kids are all back.”

One of those players was redshirt junior forward Louise Brown. She was scoring 10.4 points per game on average and leading the team with 6.9 rebounds per game before a foot injury sidelined her for the season.

Surgery was required, but Daugherty said Brown is feeling better now.

“She’s completely cleared to practice,” Daugherty said. “Right now, it’s just a matter of seeing how much her foot can tolerate.”

Another loss was redshirt sophomore forward Borislava “Bobby” Hristova, who also suffered a foot injury at the start of last season. Prior to the injury, Hristova was averaging a team-leading 14.7 points per game.

“[Hristova] was our first team all-conference player, and we lost her before we lost Lou,” Daugherty said.

Sophomore guard Cameron Fernandez was the third athlete to get injured, and was a freshman backup heading into last season. Prior to her injury, she averaged 4.7 points and 10.8 minutes on the court per game.

Another sophomore guard, Chanelle Molina, suffered a knee injury. Molina was the program’s first ever five-star recruit. She started all 17 games that she played in last season, averaging 12.8 points per game with a 51.1 shooting percentage.

“I’m 100 percent,” Molina said. “Sitting on the sideline — not only was I getting physically better, but mentally. From the sidelines, you see things off the court that you don’t see on the court.”

Despite not seeing the floor in the second half of the season, Daugherty believes Molina has improved.

“She’s as good as advertised,” Daugherty said. “I think she’s quicker than she was before the injury.”

Senior guard Caila Hailey thinks Molina has matured as a point guard since her injury.

”She’s communicating more, she’s more vocal in practice,” Hailey said. “She’s become more of a leader.”

Sophomore forward Kayla Washington, senior guard Pinelopi “P” Pavlopoulou, and junior center Maria Kostourkova are a few players that will be returning from a healthy season.

Washington played in 36 games last year, averaging 14.7 minutes per game, as a backup. She was one of the players who got more playing time due to injuries.

“[Washington is] much improved from last year,” Daugherty said. “I think she was very fortunate to play as much as she played … she’s someone that works really hard at improving her game.”

Kostourkova blocked 42 of 152 shots for WSU last season.

“If our defense makes a mistake,” Daugherty said, “our players feel like they can count on Maria to block a shot or change the shot, grab the rebound and get us running.”

Hailey, who is the team captain, said the Cougars’ biggest advantage is their depth.

“We have a lot of players that we’ll be rotating this year,” Hailey said. “Teams, when they’re tired, we’ll bring in fresh bodies. We’re a fast-paced team.”

Daugherty described Hailey as the defensive hammer.

Hailey starts pressuring the opposing team as soon as they start their offense, Daugherty said. As a two-time honorable mention for the Pac-12 all-defensive team, the Cougars will rely on Hailey’s leadership and defense.

Due to injury, the Cougars had to adjust to their game plan from the start of their previous season. Despite the quartet of injuries, WSU appeared in the final four of the WNIT. Daugherty expects her now-healthy team to improve on that finish.

“The rest of the team [is] very talented and they were the ones who got us to that final four. So, we have a lot of depth,” she said. “That allows us to play a lot harder, it allows us to rotate a lot of players. I think people are going to really, really enjoy watching this team.”