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WEST COAST CONFERENCE WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT

Loyola Marymount Hopes to Make History

March 04, 2004|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

SANTA CLARA — Loyola Marymount has been on a mission this season to rewrite its woeful history in women's basketball.

The Lions (22-5) won their first West Coast Conference regular-season title. They set a school record for victories in a season. And senior forward Kate Murray became the first Lion to be chosen conference player of the year.

Murray, who sat out last season because of a knee injury, said the Lions are "a little more hungry this year."

But their mission won't be complete without achieving another first by winning the championship of the WCC tournament, which starts today at the Leavey Center, and earning an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

Top-seeded Loyola Marymount and second-seeded Gonzaga (17-10) are the only WCC teams that have never played in the NCAA tournament.

The Lions are in good position to change that. Led by Murray and senior center Adrianne Slaughter, they have won 13 games in a row and have byes through the first two rounds of the WCC tournament before playing in the semifinals Saturday.

In today's first-round games, fifth-seeded Saint Mary's (15-13) plays eighth-seeded San Diego (6-21) at noon and sixth-seeded Santa Clara (8-19) meets seventh-seeded San Francisco (10-17) at approximately 2:30.

Third-seeded Pepperdine (16-11) won the tournament title the last two years and remains a threat after overcoming some early season injuries.

The Waves have won eight of their last nine behind a balanced attack led by senior guard Shandrika Lee.

Under Coach Mark Trakh, the Waves have reached the tournament final four times in the last five seasons.

Pepperdine plays the Santa Clara-San Francisco winner in the quarterfinals at approximately 2:30 on Friday, following the noon game between fourth-seeded Portland (13-14) and the Saint Mary's-San Diego winner.

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