NCAA Women: Woods dominates, newcomers fire in season openers

A stacked Aussie freshman class has already shown its wares in the first two days of the women's college season. A number of players got their debut starts, and a couple are ensuring they will not be giving that starting spot up anytime soon, with outstanding debut performances. However, players like Courtney Woods and Funda Nakkasoglu showed that it's not all about the newcomers this year, and displayed some outstanding scoring performances.

Courtney Woods reminded everyone of just why she received a Cheryl Miller Award nomination prior to the season, with an utterly dominant performance to lead Northern Illinois to an 89-80 victory over Yale. The senior was a perfect 14-4 from the stripe and knocked down 6 of 15 from deep on her way to an eye-popping 38-point, 12-rebound performance as the Huskies eked out an 89-80 win after rallying from an 11-point third quarter deficit before finally securing the victory in a game that was still separated by only a point with two minutes to play.

Eve Braslis played two games in the space of three days, as Utah Valley crammed in a few early games. The quick turnaround did not bother the freshman or the Wolverines, who picked up a pair of wins to start their campaign. Braslis played 37 minutes on debut against UC Santa Barbara, almost picking up a double-double on debut. Shooting 7 of 9 from the field, Braslis collected 17 points and 9 rebounds as well as 3 assists to lead Utah Valley to a 63-54 win in their season opener. Foul trouble restricted Braslis to 28 minutes against La Verne in the team’s second game in three days. Nonetheless, the freshman was still able to produce 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists as the Wolverines managed to shake the defiant NCAA Division III side 86-79.

Davidson freshman Cassidy Gould also earned a debut start, producing a solid first-up performance as the Wildcats dominated Division II side Queens University of Charlotte, rolling to an 80-47 victory. Despite playing just 20 minutes, Gould was effective at both ends to tally 12 points and 5 rebounds whilst also coming up with 4 steals in Davidson’s season-opening victory.

Fresh off winning Under 18 Asian Championship bronze with the Gems, Ula Motuga came off the bench for Washington State, and was one of the few shining lights as the Cougars fell 72-61 to an Aussie-laden Utah State side. Motuga was dominant around the basket, finishing 6 of 9 from the field for 15 points and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes. An Aggies side was helped by double-figure efforts from Olivia West and Shannon Dufficy, as well as five assists from Eliza West and four from freshman Steph Gorman, pulled away with a 28-13 final quarter to secure the victory.

Although the freshmen were firing, the top performance from a newcomer came from junior college transfer Tia Hay, who debuted in Santa Clara’s 98-38 rout of NCAA Division II side Sonoma State. Eight of the junior’s made field goals came in the form of lay-ups on the way to 21 points on 10 of 14 shooting, whilst also adding 5 rebounds and 4 assists in the Broncos’ demolition victory before they face a far tougher Nevada side on the weekend.

It wasn’t all about the freshmen in Florida, although Sydneysider Kristina Moore did get the start for the Gators in their tight loss to Gardner-Webb. Funda Nakkasoglu paced the Florida side throughout, tallying 22 points, over a third of her team’s total score. However, it would be the Runnin' Bulldogs who picked up the 60-58 victory as Nakkasoglu’s last-second three failed to find the bottom of the net, a cruel ending for a player who had done so much just to keep her team in the contest.

One of three Aussies on the Boston College roster, Taylor Ortlepp helped the Eagles get off to a flyer in an 88-64 win over Rhode Island. All 15 of the junior’s points came from beyond the arc as the South Australian knocked down 5 of 10 three-pointers to finish second in the team for points in the rout. Georgia Pineau added 4 points and 7 rebounds, whilst Lana Hollingsworth had a brief cameo off the bench to make her collegiate debut.

St. Francis Brooklyn came up against Division II side Mercy University in their season opener, and Jade Johnson took full advantage of the opportunity to ease into things against a smaller team. With the minutes spread across the roster in a 102-51 rout, Johnson played just 21 minutes but hit 4 of 6 from deep to tally 19 points and 6 rebounds, whilst Amy O’Neill rebounded from a preseason injury scare to tally 4 points and 3 assists in her 13 minutes of action.