A 74-41 home loss is never a good way to start a season. On the other hand, up is the only way to go, and that is now the case for the Grand Canyon University women’s basketball team following its defeat to Hawaii in Phoenix Friday.
“We have high expectations here,” ninth-year GCU head coach Trent May said. “Never did I expect to see what I saw tonight. The resiliency is going to be the key right now, and we didn’t play our best. We need to be more gritty. Hawaii beat us by size, but that shouldn’t matter. We need to do the technical things. If the ball’s in your area, you just have to grab it. Whoever steps on the floor needs to show their heart size rather than what it says on the roster.”
The Antelopes send four of their five leading scorers from last season back on the floor. Jessica Gajewski (10.6 points per game in 2014-15), August Touchard (10.1 ppg), Courtney Hayes (7.9 ppg), and Cheyenne Hedrington (7.6) look to improve from a team that went 13-14 and 7-7 in the WAC, where it placed fourth and fell to Seattle in the opening round of the conference tournament. The coaches selected Touchard preseason second-team All-WAC, but the 5-foot-6 junior left Friday’s game towards the end of the first quarter with an injury.
“She’s done a lot of things to put herself in position for a successful year,” May said of Touchard. “Everybody loves her, but it (watching a teammate go down) does take a lot out of you.”
Point guard Hayes, who is a Louisiana Tech transfer and senior, was voted preseason All-WAC by College Sports Madness. She dished out 123 assists, starting all 27 games last year and was second on the team with six rebounds per contest, behind the 5-foot-10 Hedrington’s 7.2.
“My job is to get everybody involved,” Hayes said, “and my shot has improved a lot, get the post touches, the guards open, I just didn’t have a good night, but getting the shooters open is my job. You just have to wipe the board clean and move on to the next one, the season goes like this (snapping fingers), you just have to keep your mind fresh and move on to the next one.”
Also returning for GCU are 5-foot-8 senior guard Devyn Edwards and 5-foot-7 sophomore Zelor Massaquoi, who Coach May called out with positive impressions Friday night. Dana Jones transfers over from Texas Southern, Alyx Bloom from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, Julieh Clark from Panola College, and Tanesha Daniels from Salt Lake City CC. Kiara Clark from Glendale CC is redshirting.
The Antelopes are back in action at 7 p.m. Monday at home versus Oral Roberts, a team they beat by three in Tulsa last December. After one more home game against Western State Nov. 19, an eight-game road trip includes USC, Gonzaga and West Virginia.