By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
September 11, 2008
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Although she is only a sophomore, shooting guard Liz Repella will be counted on to provide leadership and scoring for a retooled West Virginia University women’s basketball squad.
The Steubenville, Ohio, native has gotten her Mountaineer career off to a fresh start after providing a spark off the bench for last season’s team. Her hard-nosed, hustling demeanor that was pervasive on the court in 2008 will provide an example for her teammates to follow if they want to enjoy success again this season.
“I think we definitely need leaders because there are so many young girls this year,” Repella said. “Whether it’s leading by example so they can see how hard you’re working, or talking to them and letting them know what needs to be done on the court.”
Repella certainly looks to fulfill that leadership role. She is one of only three Mountaineers returning from last season’s 25-8 team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament and virtually rewrote the school’s record books. The lone returning starter is point guard Ashley Powell, who averaged 25.2 minutes last season and started 32 of 33 games.
Repella, known as last season’s sparkplug off the bench, looks to be one of this year’s go-to players. She is versatile as a shooting guard and a small forward, and proved last season that she can stand out at both ends of the court.
Repella has shown to be a reliable force, combining her fundamental skills with an immense passion for the game as she played in 32 of 33 games last year, fourth all-time for newcomers in school history. Her big-game experience is evident as she scored eight critical points against No. 4 Rutgers and played a big part in one WVU’s best-ever victories over the Scarlet Knights.
But the talented shooter is always looking to improve her game. Her impressive .379 3-point field goal percentage last season highlights her sharpshooting capabilities, and her 26 steals in limited time displays her scrappiness and toughness on the defensive end.
This summer, Repella worked diligently to better herself in all facets of the game. Playing overseas against some unique competition, she enters the 2008-09 season in tip-top shape as she looks to shoulder the load for the Mountaineers.
“I traveled to Barbados in June with USA International Athletes, and we played four games there against the Barbados National Team,” Repella said. “In addition to that, we also had workouts everyday – weight training and conditioning – and we played open gym three times a week.”
Her experience this summer helped simulate the rigors that she is already going through in fall workouts. But she also got to enjoy success overseas both individually and team-wise, averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds and four steals while leading her squad to a 4-1 record at the Bajan Friendship Tour.
A big part of her game is lifting and building strength, especially for what lies ahead in the BIG EAST Conference. Last year’s learning process on a well-rounded, senior-dominated team gave her the impression that adding muscle is a key component to being successful in conference play.
“It was a great experience to be on a team with so many seniors, so when you went into a game you wouldn’t have to do everything,” Repella said of competing against conference opponents teams. “The BIG EAST is eye-opening, and those are big girls. One thing I learned is if you want to play in the BIG EAST, you have to be strong.”
Winning in the BIG EAST is already an arduous task, and Repella believes the Mountaineers must make a statement by taking care of business in non-conference competition.
“I think we need to go into conference play with a winning record,” Repella said. “The BIG EAST is such a strong conference and we need to get some wins, especially on our home court because playing away with so many young players is going to be tough.”
Repella and the rest of the Mountaineers can rest assure that they will be guided by a tremendous leader in Head Coach Mike Carey. Having garnered a 132-86 record through seven seasons at WVU, Carey has been known to get the best out of his players through hard work and solid preparation.
Although she has only played under his tutelage for one season, Repella already knows what it takes to survive in Carey’s system.
“He expects discipline,” Repella said of her fiery coach. “If you are going to play you need to listen to him and you better go hard all the time; there’s no taking breaks.”
The attributes that Carey looks for in his players can be found in Repella’s repertoire. She has offensive and defensive abilities that are hard to find, providing a solid scoring option while showcasing herself as a lock-down defensive stopper.
But the second-year pharmacy major, nicknamed “Rep,” will not associate her improvement last year without mentioning the help she received from her teammates. Playing with teammates such as Meg Bulger and Olayinka Sanni has provided her with the right mentality for the upcoming season.
“Not only were they seniors, but they were great players,” Repella said of last year’s graduates. “They taught me a lot. Hopefully people that were on last season’s team can teach the newcomers what they taught us.”
Fans may also notice a change in this season’s team not only by personnel, but by the style of play. The 2008-09 Mountaineers are devoid of a major inside presence, leading Carey to tweak his offensive and defensive philosophies and create a transitional game by running and pressing more.
Such a style fits the nature of Repella, whose flexibility and physicality can thrive in a high-paced tempo. She also believes her teammates can eventually adjust to the style of play as well.
“Even toward the beginning of the season in the first few games we’ll have some kinks to work out,” Repella admitted. “But we’re getting there, we’re working hard.”
With a young squad that is learning to jell, Repella will be one of the stable forces that can hold the team together until it exudes its ability to play cohesively and develop a winning attitude.
And if they follow her lead on and off the court, WVU’s winning ways won’t be too far in the distance.
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