Athletics & Recreation / News

Pioneers shoot to better last season’s stellar finish

Kaetlyn Murdoch leads the Pioneers into the 2010-11 season. Photo: Rich Clarkson & Associates

Fresh off its first postseason bid in a decade, the Denver women’s basketball team looks to build on a 2010–11 season that saw head coach Erik Johnson tally the most victories in his three-year tenure at the helm and record the program’s first victory over a ranked opponent during its time in Division I.

Even with the graduation of a few key seniors, the Pioneers are eager to improve on last year’s 19-12 record and their trip to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. They’ll also look to compete for one last shot at a Sun Belt Conference Championship.

“There’s no question this team can be very, very good and our goal is to take the next step,” Johnson says.  “We won 19 games last year, so now we need to get to 20. We want to win this conference and compete in the NCAA Tournament. There’s no question that the Sun Belt is wide open and we have the ability to compete for the title, so that’s the level we’re coaching these players at.”

The Pioneers return three starters with a great deal of experience, including all-conference senior forward Kaetlyn Murdoch. Murdoch already has earned preseason All-America honors from She also was named a conference preseason co-player of the year and to the conference’s preseason first team after leading the Pioneers in points, rebounds and blocks last season.

Also returning is junior guard Emiko Smith, a true point guard currently on pace to break the career assist mark in the DU record books.

Sophomore forward Quincy Noonan joins Murdoch and Smith as the final returning starter for the Pioneers. Last season, Noonan finished fifth on the team in points and second on the team in assists, steals and blocked shots.

“Obviously we have to replace a lot and we’re going to be young,” Johnson says. “The good news is there’s a lot of places where that can come from. There’s a lot of talent in this program and really the key is who steps up in what ways and how quickly.”

Denver will play one of its toughest schedules during the 2011–12 season, facing some of the nation’s top programs, along with its always-competitive Sun Belt Conference slate.

The Pioneers will play 14 home games this season, boasting one of the toughest nonconference schedules in recent memory. Denver welcomes traditional national powers Oregon and Minnesota to Magness Arena in early December. Regional rivals Wyoming, Colorado State and Montana all make the trip to Denver this season, while the Pioneers hit the road for games against Colorado, Air Force and Northern Colorado.

Following the program’s first victory over a ranked opponent in school history last season against No. 23 Vanderbilt, the Pioneers will travel to Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 2 for another highly anticipated match-up with the Southeastern Conference power. The team’s nonconference slate is rounded out with a trip to El Paso, Texas, to take on UTEP and a holiday tournament in Hawaii, which features 2011 co-Big Sky Conference Champion Portland State and 2011 NCAA Tournament qualifier UC-Davis.

“Our nonconference schedule is packed full of challenges, but the good news is we’re going to be ready for those big-time games when they come,” Johnson says. “Last year we were fortunate to get some big-time wins against CU and Vandy. I certainly hope this team will be ready to take another step forward on the national scene.”

The Department of Human Resources and the Division of Athletics and Recreation will host an appreciation event for DU staff, faculty and retirees on Nov. 11 in conjunction with the women’s and men’s basketball openers. Employees and retirees are encouraged to register for complimentary tickets to both games and a Mexican buffet.  Family members are invited and drawings for door prizes will be held.

It’s also military appreciation night. Anyone with a military ID receives two free “game hopper” tickets, which admit the holder to the two basketball games as well as DU volleyball that day. The ticket also includes two free popcorns.

This week’s Pioneer home schedule

Date Date Opponent Location Time
Nov. 10 Soccer (M) MPSF Tournament CIBER Field 5/7:30 p.m.
Nov. 11 Basketball (W) Loyola-Marymount Magness Arena 5 p.m.
Nov. 11 Soccer (M) MPSF Tournament CIBER Field 5/7:30 p.m.
Nov. 11 Volleyball North Texas Hamilton Gymnasium 6 p.m.
Nov. 11 Basketball (M) Portland State Magness Arena 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 12 Swimming and Diving El Pomar Natatorium noon
Nov. 12 Hockey Colorado College Magness Arena 7 p.m.
Nov. 13 Soccer (M) MPSF Tournament CIBER Field 1 p.m.
Nov. 14 Basketball (W) Wyoming Magness Arena 7 p.m.


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