By, Maxine Goynes, '11
Alyssa Shoji, the starting point guard still has a season left for the Santa Clara women's basketball team but has already made a huge impact on the court. This week www.SantaClaraBroncos.com took a few minutes to speak with Shoji as the season winds down and the WCC tournament quickly approaches.
SCB: Currently you are leading the team and WCC in minutes with an average of 34.5 mpg. What did you have to do in the off- season to prepare yourself for these type of minutes?
AS: We do a lot of training in the off-season and I think that is a huge reason why, not only myself, but many of my teammates are able to play as many minutes as we do. Our strength and conditioning coach, Joe Siara, does a really good job of keeping us in shape year round as well as our coaches who push us hard every day in practice.
SCB: The women's basketball team has turned their season around from last year, now you guys are among the top teams in the WCC. What do you think has contributed to this year's success?
AS: Last year we were a really young team. Although I would still say we are still VERY young, considering we only have three upperclassmen including myself, I feel like we have come a long way. I think getting those two wins in the WCC tournament last year really boosted our confidence and showed what we are capable of. This year we have a lot more confidence and have really gelled as a team. Our team chemistry is great and that is a big part of our success.
SCB: This year, there has been a lot of senior leadership on the court from players like Lena Gipson and Kathy Willinsky. How do you think the dynamics of the team will change after these players finish their last season?
AS: Both Kathy and Lena add so much to our team. Kathy gets our team going. She brings the energy and the fire everyday in practice and in the games. Lena is a huge presence inside. Every opponent we face has to focus so much on containing her because when the ball is in her hands she is unstoppable in the paint. With both of those girls graduating it's going to require us to come together even more. We won't be able to rely on Lena when we can't get anything else going. But we still have so many different weapons on our team, which I think will make us successful.
SCB: How has the culture of your team been different this year in comparison to previous years?
AS: Our team this year is one big unit. I think we all get along extremely well. We all care about each other and we care about the success of this team. We have great chemistry on the court and it is starting to show.
SCB: You guys are in a race with four other teams to secure first day bye at the tournament. How has this affected the team's mentality?
AS: It has been extremely motivating. For the returners, we remember last year what it is like playing in the conference tournament and how important that bye was. Last year without the bye we had to play three games in three days and ended up losing in the semifinals. It's a tough run; so securing that bye is something we really want. We are definitely fired up for our last two games this week against LMU and Pepperdine!
SCB: You are fourth in the WCC in assists and lead the team with 3.7 assists per game. What other aspects of your game do you consider to be a strength?
AS: This year I have been surrounded by people who can score. So it has definitely been fun being able to set them up and distribute the ball. I would also say my other strengths are free throws and three-pointers. I love shooting the three!
SCB: With the progression of this season alone, what do you see for the future of Bronco women's basketball?
AS:I think this year we have made huge strides. I think our program has become better each year since my freshman year, and I can only see it getting better in the years to come.
SCB: When you aren't on the court, what do you like to do to relax?
AS: I love going to the movies, hang out around campus, go to the mall or just relaxing in my room listening to music.