By Steve Gress

Corvallis Gazette-Times

First up

Exhibition vs. Concordia

When: Nov. 5

CORVALLIS — When Marie Gulich took to the practice court Wednesday for warmups, she began to look around.

Gulich, a senior on the Oregon State women’s basketball team, said she was looking for the familiar sight of good friends — and now former teammates — Kolbie Orum and Sydney Wiese.

Neither was there, as both used up their eligibility last season.

“Obviously, you miss those people because of their personalities,” Gulich said after the Beavers’ first practice in preparation for the upcoming season.

It did not take long for Gulich to focus her attention on who was there — and how different this year’s team might turn out to be.

It is the second straight year the Beavers, who have won or shared three straight Pac-12 titles, have lost a senior class that left an indelible mark on the program, not only as top-level players but also for their contributions to building Oregon State into an elite program under coach Scott Rueck.

“It was great to have that senior leadership,” said sophomore guard Mikayla Pivec, a starter for most of last season. “But now that they’re gone a lot of the younger players will have to take on bigger roles and step up. Those seniors helped instill in us values that we need to keep going in this program.”

Gulich, a center, is the lone senior this time around. She and Pivec are the two returning starters.

Also returning are junior guards Katie McWilliams and Taylor Kalmer, and sophomores Kat Tudor (guard), Janessa Thropay (forward) and Maddie Washington (guard/forward).

Freshmen Aleah Goodman (guard) and Taya Corosdale (forward) are newcomers, along with transfers Joanna Grymek (junior center) and Destiny Slocum, a guard who must sit out this season after leaving Maryland following last season. Slocum was the Big Ten freshman of the year.

“I’m encouraged by what this team has done over the offseason,” Rueck said, “and I’m encouraged by the way they’ve begun this year, how they interact with each other, how they approach the game. I’m excited to see what they can accomplish.”

With so many younger players needing to fill some big holes, the next couple of weeks until the exhibition game against Concordia of Portland on Nov. 5 and the season opener Nov. 10 against North Dakota will be filled with building cohesiveness on and off the court, as well as learning what each player can do.

“And then obviously defense, we have to work on our defense — just being quicker on our defense and closing and helping each other out,” Gulich said. “Talking and communication, we just have to work on all those things to do the little things right and then the big things will come after.”

Pivec had similar thoughts.

“We need to continue to grow and take each day to better ourselves defensively,” she said, “and just come in with a great attitude and know that it’s going to take work but just come in ready to work hard every day to improve upon what you did yesterday or the day before.”

For the coaches, it is figuring out what the team can do best to find success. That could include getting up and down the court a little more.

“It’s our job as coaches to figure out what exactly our strengths are and what we should look like and what the best way for us to play is,” Rueck said. “So everybody wants to run more but our conference defends so well it’s tough to run. But I do believe we need to be more opportunistic than we have been in the past, and I think we are a very versatile team.”

The season cannot come soon enough, and Gulich is excited for the potential the team has to continue its recent success.

“I think we are going to do great things again like last season and the seasons before,” she said. “I think we can be very, very, very good, and I’m positive we will work hard and show our best and we will play to inspire again. I can’t wait for Beaver Nation. I’m super excited to see the gym full again.”

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