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WVU women establish lofty goals

Players on the West Virginia women's basketball team don't talk much about their goals for the 2010-11 season, coach Mike Carey said. But they do end every practice by saying the same two words: national championship.

"Our goal is to win a national championship," Carey said. "There's a lot of steps you have to take to get to that point, and really we haven't talked about a whole lot other than coming to practice every day and working hard. Come every day and let's get better, and this group's been good at doing that."

Every team wants to win a national championship, of course, and few have a legitimate shot at it, particularly with such dominant teams as Connecticut, Baylor and Stanford. Still, one would have to think that if last year is any indication, the Mountaineers at least have potential.

They return all five starters — four were named All-Big East last year — and eight letter-winners from the 2009-10 team, which set a record for the most wins in program history with 29. They finished second in the Big East and were also runners-up to Connecticut in the Big East tournament before losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Ranked as high as No. 7 in The Associated Press poll last year, the Mountaineers finished at No. 10 and are No. 11 in the preseason poll.

WVU starts the season Friday against Loyola, Md., without point guard Sarah Miles, who had wrist surgery a month ago and is day-to-day. Freshman Brooke Hampton has taken over in her absence, but she won't be the only newcomer Carey will employ.

"I'm going to play a lot more people than I have in the past," Carey said. "We're going to try to go a little deeper this year than we have in the past, and because of that we're going to be a little out of synch early with so many people playing. But that's OK. I think it'll help us in the end."

Carey said he also plans to alter his combinations, and the new looks may include using 6-foot-4 sophomore Asya Bussie and 6-3 freshman Ayana Dunning, both centers, at the same time.

He also hopes to do more on offense this year instead of relying so much on defense, which limited opponents to 34.9 percent shooting and 51.8 points per game last year.

"We have to be able to average at least in the 70s this year," Carey said. "Last year it was in the 60s, so we're really stressing that. We've changed our fast-break a little bit, trying to get up and down the floor a little quicker and get some easy shots."

The Mountaineers won't sneak up on anyone this year, and they'll be challenged regularly in a conference that includes fellow preseason Top 25 teams Notre Dame, Georgetown, St. John's and No. 1 Connecticut.

"We want to win the Big East, too, and win the Big East and you have a great shot (at winning a national title)," West Virginia senior guard Liz Repella said. "We have the talent to beat teams and we know that. We just have to keep working hard."

Note: West Virginia announced the signing of four players to the 2011-12 roster: 6-foot guard Akilah Bethel, of Randallstown, Md.; 6-foot forward Averee Fields, of Hazel, Ky.; 6-foot-2 forward Crystal Leary, of Norfolk, Va.; and 5-foot-7 guard Linda Stepney, also of Norfolk, Va.

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