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Oct. 17, 2003

The University of South Carolina women’s basketball team takes to the court Saturday, October 18th in the first official day of practice for NCAA Division 1 teams across the country.

The Gamecocks welcome back two starters and three letterwinners from last year’s 23-8 team that advanced into the second round of the NCAA Tournament last March. The women will enjoy a morning practice from 9:00 until 11:00 and come back for an evening session from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. before departing for the 7:45 football game against LSU. On Sunday, the team will workout in the evening following the volleyball game and clinic.

Although the team’s official media day press conference will not be held until November, head coach Susan Walvius offered the following thoughts about starting the new season.

“Going into this season, I know that we have our work cut out for us after losing Jocelyn Penn and Petra Ujhelyi to the WNBA. We’ve now had four players in two years drafted into the WNBA. We’ll need to make up about 40 points and 23 rebounds per game with the loss of those two players.

“We return two starters (Kelly Morrone and Cristina Ciocan) and three letterwinners who made significant contributions last season (Sarah Burgess, Olga Gritsaeva and Kasia Roszak). Cristina Ciocan is one of the top point guards in the country and is only 123 assists away from becoming South Carolina’s all-time leader in that category. Kelly Morrone is the team leader, on and off the court, and is also one of the SEC’s most-deadly three-point shooting threats.

“We signed the 10th best freshmen class (All-Star Girls Report) and the addition of the eight new players will help our team. We managed to keep three of the state’s best players here at home (Columbia natives Lauren Simms and Lakesha Tolliver and Barnwell’s Melanie Johnson) and stole two players on the same Collins Hill High School team (Lawrenceville, Georgia) that captured back-to-back state championships. Also, we found three of the best players in Europe while watching them play for their respective national teams (Romania-Larissa Kulcsar; Croatia-Lea Fabbri and Iva Sliskovic).

“Columbia High School graduate Angela Hunter transferred to South Carolina over the summer after spending her first year at Tennessee-Chattanooga. She will have to sit out this year but will be able to practice with the team to prepare for her sophomore season next year.

“We are stronger at the guard position than we’ve been in the past. We have five guards on the roster right now who have the potential to start for us. Our post position has gained more height and more depth. Over the summer, we added 18-year coaching veteran Ed Baldwin and former Lady Vol and professional basketball player Michelle Marciniak to our coaching staff. We’ve also created a new position on staff, Director of Basketball Operations, and hired former Winthrop head coach Robin Muller to handle those duties.

“Our goal this year is to compete for the National Championship.”