UNM Women's Hoops: "Embracing the Challenge"
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  09/24/2013
By Matt Ensor - Assistant Director of Communications

There is a great amount of responsibility when you put on your jersey as a member of the New Mexico Women’s Basketball program. Wearing the words “New Mexico” on the front of your jersey represents a lot. It represents the numerous Mountain West titles on display in the Rudy Davalos Basketball Center. It embodies a standard of academic excellence to the tune of eight national top 25 academic rankings in nine seasons. Those two words also mean you’re a role model in the community by way of numerous community service projects and visits. It can be a challenge, but for Lobos it’s a challenge you don’t shy away from. You embrace it.

You embrace the challenge; every day.

The Lobos spent some time with visitors from the Notah Begay III Foundation this summer.

This offseason has been no different for Coach Sanchez and company. The team has plenty to be excited about in 2013-14 after a productive summer that included a new wrinkle. This past summer marked the first time the NCAA allowed women’s basketball teams to have organized summer workouts like their male counterparts. It was an opportunity that meant a lot to the coaches and players alike.

Take senior Sara Halasz for example. Halasz has seen her fair share of summers in a Lobo uniform. Halasz played in all 31 games last season after missing two consecutive seasons to knee injuries.

“This summer has been part of a progression for me. I’ve gone from just shooting around as a freshman to working on strength as well. Especially for me, there’s been a focus on getting stronger with my knees,” Halasz noted.

It was an opportunity to get stronger and faster. However, it was also an opportunity to learn and develop.

“For us it was great, especially with our handful of freshmen that were here,” said Head Coach Yvonne Sanchez.  “You want your players to learn your system and verbiage, and this is an opportunity to do this in the summer versus overwhelming with even more things when they get here for fall classes. The staff and I really liked having the opportunity because it’s great just to get on the court and spend time developing those fundamentals.”

While working on development and improvement is part of it, there’s a level of excitement among this group of Lobos. A “youthful excitement” in the gym as New Mexico welcomes six freshman for the 2013-14 season. Those six give New Mexico a little bit of everything from point guard to post and everything in between. Brooke Allemand and Marissa Perry are new at the point guard position. Alex Lapeyrolerie gives UNM a wing player. Josie Greenwood and Lauren Newman will see time at the forward position. While six-foot four-inch Kianna Keller offers additional height up front as well.

“This incoming class of freshman really gives us one of everything. Each of our freshmen has an upperclassman at their position that they can look up to. There’s someone in the program for them to watch as examples to follow at every position,” Sanchez observed.

There’s even more depth coming New Mexico’s way in a pair of upperclassmen. UNM will have Antiesha Brown, MW Sixth Player of the Year, for a full season. She only played in the second semester last season after completing her transfer from Texas Tech. Brown will be joined by Ebony Walker this season after Walker redshirted last season after transferring as well.

The Cherry & Silver return a wealth of Lobos who saw time on Bob King Court last season, which includes seniors Sarah Halasz and Deeva Vaughn. Junior Maddie Muraida joins sophomores Bryce Owens, Khadijah Shumpert, Brea Mitchell and Alexa Chavez as returners as well.

The 2013-14 season is fast approaching, which is the time of the year when teams are ready to measure their successes. Yet to New Mexico’s head coach, improvement is a process.

“I think it’s part of a progression. I always think you have to see it as a building process even if you’re the Connecticut and Louisville of the world. You’re always still building because you’re always trying to get better than you were before,” Coach Sanchez explained.

An offseason worth of progression means a lot of tangible aspects on the court. There are also a lot of subtle, qualitative aspects in it as well.

“This offseason has felt like we are a bigger family,” said Halasz. “We all get along. Sure there’s times when we get out there and bicker at one another, but at the end of the day we all have each other’s backs. That’s what counts when you come out here as part of the Lobo family. It’ a family that’s out here having fun, and you can see that on these girls’ faces. Every day they come in; they want to work and get better. Everybody is coming in to work, and that’s what makes a difference.”

It’s that unity and passion that the program has built itself on and carried on this summer. It’s also become a mindset as Halasz explained.

“It’s been a progression of hard work, and I love it. It’s been about embracing the challenge.”