GNAC releases preseason women’s basketball poll, Nanooks 10th

Photo by Paul McCarthy. Benissa Bulaya, last year’s Team MVP, is one of six players back from last year’s squad. Western Washington is favored to win the GNAC.

Jamie Foland

The Alaska women’s basketball team, comprised of quite a few new faces this year, is out to prove the doubters wrong this year as the team was picked 10th in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference preseason poll in a vote by the 10 head coaches, the league office announced Thursday.

“The team is different, more talented that we’ve had in the past overall and it’s not going to take just one person to get it done for us but all of them,” head coach Cody Burgess said. “They are fighters and contenders and when you have that hunger for wins and to be successful, anything can happen. We’re out to prove people wrong and frankly a lot of the women are ready to make history.”

Coming back this season from last year’s 6-22 (2-16 GNAC) team are seniors Taylor Altenburg (Elko, Nev.) and Jacqueline Lovato (Gunnison, Colo.), juniors Marissa Atoruk (Kiana, Alaska) and Emily Johnson (Juneau, Alaska) and sophomores Benissa Bulaya (Sacramento, Calif.) and Kelly Logue (Fair Oaks, Calif.).

The returning players combined for 64 starts last season and the Nanooks return 36-percent of the team’s scoring and 35-percent of rebounding from the 2011-12 campaign. Of the 12 newcomers this year, eight are transfers with college playing experience.

“They’re more mature and experienced so they know how hard they have to work,” Burgess said. “They committed to this program and team hoping to make that difference. They’re here to be successful and be champions. When you’re a veteran with experience under your belt that transition into a new team and conference is a lot smoother and you’re ready for the challenge.”

The team began practice back on Oct. 15 and so far, Burgess likes what she’s seeing.

“[Practice] is going well,” Burgess said. “We’re adding more every day and they feel it more closely becoming a team in the sense that you have more offense, defense, a full-court press, a zone and some traps and all the sudden you’re an entire program, not an open-gym type of player. We look forward to getting better every day.”

Western Washington edged Simon Fraser as the league favorite as the Vikings received seven first-place votes and 96 points to the Clan’s three first-place votes and 93 points. Following the top two were Seattle Pacific (76), Montana State-Billings 63), Alaska Anchorage (57) and Northwest Nazarene (56). Rounding out the poll were Central Washington (47), Western Oregon (30), Saint Martin’s (18) and Alaska (14).

GNAC Preseason Coaches Poll

Team2011-12 Record (GNAC finish)Points
1. Western Washington (7)22-8 (14-4, 2nd)96
2. Simon Fraser (3)17-11 (11-7, t-3rd)93
3. Seattle Pacific17-10 (11-7, t-3rd)76
4. Montana State-Billings18-12 (10-8, 6th)63
5. Alaska Anchorage30-5 (16-2, 1st)57
6. Northwest Nazarene18-10 (11-7, t-3rd)56
7. Central Washington9-17 (5-13, 8th)47
8. Western Oregon7-21 (6-12, 7th)30
9. Saint Martin’s9-19 (4-14, 9th)18
10. Alaska6-22 (2-16, 10th)14









() – first place votes