Cowgirls Maintain Respect of MW Hoops Despite Changes

Tracy Ringolsby

After a 16-year stint as the Wyoming Cowgirls head coach, including 10 seasons of 20-plus wins, Joe Legerski has moved on, opted last spring for retirement. Marta Gomez, who led the Cowgirls with 15.6 points per game and ranked second on the team with 4.7 assists per game, and Bailee Cotton, who ranked second at 11.6 points and first with 8.6 rebounds per game, have both graduated.

What, however, remains is Gerald Mattinson. An assistant during Legerski's entire tenure, including the last 13 years as the assistant head coach, Mattinson has become the head coach, and the Cowgirls respect among their Mountain West competition.

And the proof of respect the Cowgirls' program has gained in the last 16 years is as obvious that even with the departure of Legerski, Gomez and Cotton, the Cowgirls are still picked to finish fourth out of 11 teams in the Mountain West Conference this season. The voting panel consists of the 11 MW head coaches and selected members of the media.

Defending regular season and tournament champions Boise State was picked to win the league after garnering 25 first-place votes and 305 points. New Mexico picked up three first-place votes and 280 points to be picked second, while Fresno State earned 228 points in the poll to be selected third.

 Wyoming received 201 points, good for fourth place, while San Diego State (192 points) and Colorado State (185 points) were picked fifth and sixth, respectively. UNLV and Utah State earned 130 and 116 points to be picked seventh and eighth, respectively. Nevada (115 points) points was picked ninth, while Air Force (85 points) and San José State (77 points) were picked 10th and 11th, respectively. The Spartans picked up the final first-place vote, as well.

Wyoming's respect comes even though it did not have any players recognized in the pre-season honors. 

The preseason all-Mountain West team is comprised of Boise State seniors BraydeyHodgins and Riley Lupfer, New Mexico senior Aisia Robertson and sophomore JaylaEverett, and Fresno State junior Maddi Utti.

Hodgins was also named the preseason Player of the Year. The conference has preseason Co-Freshmen of the Year in New Mexico's Corina Carter and Fresno State's Haley Cavinder. Boise State's Mallory McGwire was chosen as the league's preseason Newcomer of the Year.

The Cowgirls return two starters and seven letterwinners from last year's team that went 25-9 overall with a 13-3 mark in Mountain West play. The 2018-19 Cowgirl team advanced to the quarterfinals of the Women's National Invitation Tournament for just the second time in school history.

The two starters returning are senior Taylor Rusk and sophomore Karla Erjavec. Rusk is primed to be Wyoming's next 1,000 point scorer, as she is just 155 points shy of the milestone. Erjavec set the program's freshman assist record with 124 helpers last season to lead the team.

Other returning Cowgirls that saw action last season include sophomore Quinn Weidemann, sophomore Tereza Vitulova, sophomore Alba Sanchez Ramos, senior Elisa Pilli and sophomore Tommi Olson.

Weidemann and Vitulova are the most experienced of that group, as they played in 34 and 27 games last season, respectively. Sanchez Ramos proved to be a capable scorer in her minutes, while Pilli had a good touch from long range, and Olson averaged over a steal per game, defensively.

Wyoming also welcomes back Selale Kepenc, a redshirt junior who didn't play last season while recovering from an injury.

The Cowgirls will have five newcomers on the roster in junior college transfers and Wyoming natives Jaye Johnson and Emily Buchanan. Additionally, a trio of freshman join the 2019-20 squad. McKinley Bradshaw and Paige Powell are both from Wyoming, whileJaeden Vaifanua is from Draper, Utah.

Head coach Gerald Mattinson is in his first year at the helm of the Cowgirls after spending the last 16 seasons as an assistant and associate head coach of Wyoming.

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