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"My philosophy defensively, and in general, is to be unpredictable," says Marianne Stanley, coach of OLD DOMINION. Last season the Lady Monarchs confounded Georgia enough in the NCAA final to walk away with the national title. So don't count ODU out this time. Two full-time starters, Marie Christian and Dawn Cullen, are back at point guard and center, respectively, and guard-forward Adrienne Goodson and guard Bridget Jenkins move into the lineup with plenty of experience. So what if the squad is young, with five freshmen joining the ranks? Stanley wasted no time in breaking them in her way. Before regular practices began, she had her players participate in a confidence-building program called Ropes and Initiative. Among other required tasks, they descended from a 60-foot-high platform on ropes and pulleys.
The starting five who helped WESTERN KENTUCKY achieve a 28-6 record in '84-85 is back this season, led by top Lady Toppers Lillie Mason (16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds per game) at forward, and Kami Thomas (14.1 points per game) and Clemette Haskins (212 assists) at guard. Through plyometrics (a fancy name for jumping exercises), weightlifting, flag football games and two-mile runs to a local Baskin-Robbins, Western can boast of having perhaps the best-conditioned team in the nation. Expect the Lady Toppers to again confound opponents with their Mad Dog (1-2-2, three-quarter-court press) defense.
"We're the best-kept secret in the South," says AUBURN coach Joe Ciampi, but not for much longer. Although the Lady Tigers finished second in the SEC behind Georgia, they aren't afraid to show their claws, as evidenced by their 80-65 thrashing of the Lady Bulldogs last season. Auburn will go even more to a power game this time around, with forward Mae Ola Bolton (12.7 points), point guard Helene Baroody (4.8 assists) and freshman center-forward Vickie Orr leading the way.
USC went 21-9 last year—not bad for a squad that carried six freshmen. Now, after a year of playing alongside the Franchise, Cheryl Miller (page 124), those young women have come of age. Miller led USC to two national titles in her first two years. She'll be looking for a third in her senior season, along with point guard Rhonda (Magic) Windham, forward Holly Ford, both starters last season, and 6'4" center Cherie Nelson. Should the Women of Troy survive a schedule that includes Texas, Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion, NCAA tournament time may be Miller time once more.
If height makes might, OHIO STATE will come up short. The two tallest Buckeyes, Rhonda Winters and Teresa Dombkowski, are all of 6'3", while the shortest is 5'1" Gennifer Johnson. Three starters from last season's 28-3 team are back: guard Liana Coutts and forward-guards Francine Lewis and Tracey Hall. First-year coach Nancy Darsch hopes to build a strong, if not tall, inside game on offense while sticking with the Buckeyes' bread and butter—the scrappy man-to-man on defense.
Each year since 1982, LONG BEACH STATE has lost the West regional final to the eventual national champion. This year 6'2" forward Cindy Brown is the 49ers' only returning starter. But coach Joan Bonvicini is not without some divine inspiration and hope. While vacationing in Italy last summer, Bonvicini visited her uncle Guido, a tailor who makes vestments for the Vatican. "Next time, if I call early and let him know I'm coming, he'll get me an audience with the Pope," Bonvicini says. "I may need that to win the national championship."
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