11/14/08 — Lee: Building on success key to women's program

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Lee: Building on success key to women's program

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 14, 2008 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- On the rise.

That's how the Mount Olive women's basketball program is viewed headed into the 2008-09 season.

Coming off their most-successful campaign in Wendy Lee's coaching tenure -- and the school's history, for that matter -- the Trojans hope to remain among the league's elite.

The Trojans are picked to finish tied for second in Conference Carolinas regular-season action this year. It's a role Lee says her team can handle.

"We want to build on all of the successes of last year's team as we look toward the future," said Lee. "We have to be able to keep perspective, but we also know that we need to focus on where we want to go."

Mount Olive posted a 21-11 record last season, emerged the Conference Carolinas tournament champion and earned its first-ever trip to the NCAA Division II tournament. The Trojans knocked off East Regional host Indiana (Pa.) University, the top seed, in the opening round.

Division I transfer Lakeisha Monroe, who made the most of her one year of eligibility with the program, was a big part of the success. Monroe averaged 17.1 points per game as a starter and has moved on since graduation.

Lee expects her team to build on Monroe's success.

"Now we start over, with new players in new positions ... but as a coach you do that every year," said Lee. "We have a lot of young players that have improved immensely since last season like Laporsha Davis, Shequanta McGee and Brittany Miller."

Four seniors balance a young roster that is filled with question marks.

Helen Moore returns to her forward position following a breakout sophomore campaign. The Kenly native averaged 14.5 points and six rebounds per game last season.

Hot-shooting Brittney Robich is also back for the Trojans. The senior shot 32 percent from beyond the arc in 2007.

"We have a nice nucleus of returning players that know what it takes to get to the postseason," said Lee. "But we also have a lot of energy from our new players, who know that they are the future of the program."

Lee welcomes two true freshmen to the program -- former Charles B. Aycock standout Chantel Gaines and Swansboro's Desha Pickett.

After being tabbed to finish tied for second in the annual Conference Carolinas preseason poll, expectations are high within the Trojan locker room.

"Expectations are always high, as a coach or as a player," said Lee. "It puts a little more pressure on you because you know that you're the returning conference champions and the other teams have put a target on your back."

A tough stretch of games, including two Conference Carolinas matchups in November, highlight the early-season slate.

Mount Olive opens the season Saturday against Virginia Union, which is the first of four consecutive home games at Kornegay Arena. The Trojans will also face Chowan, St. Andrews and league newcomer Converse (S.C.) College.