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Young UT women’s team opens practice

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University of Toledo basketball coach Tricia Cullop speaks to her team at its first practice Wednesday.

BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge

The University of Toledo women’s basketball team kicked off practices Wednesday with a team that looks unlike those that piled up 20-plus wins in recent years.

PHOTO GALLERY: First women's basketball practice for UT

The Rockets open the post-Naama Shafir era in rebuilding mode, with six of their 12 players entering their initial season in the program.

Coach Tricia Cullop, in her sixth season, must replace multiyear starters Shafir, Yolanda Richardson, and Lecretia Smith. A talented five-member freshman class figures to contend for playing time, if not starting roles. A sixth newcomer, guard Brenae Harris, will sit out this season after transferring from Michigan.

The Rockets, already short one scholarship because of an agreement they made last season with the NCAA to exceed the scholarship limit and bring Shafir back for a fifth year, recently lost a veteran presence. Forward Mariah Carson is done playing, unable to resolve back pain. Carson, a redshirt junior, appeared in 18 games last season, averaging 1.4 points and 1.3 rebounds.

Back from last year’s 29-4 team that captured the Mid-American Conference regular season title are All-MAC selections and double-digit scorers Andola Dortch and Inma Zanoguera.

Dortch, the MAC defensive player of the year, could slide from off guard to replace Shafir at point guard. Cullop will also take a look at freshman Elena Alfredo, a teammate of Zanoguera’s this summer on the Spanish team that won the European Championships’ U-20 title.

The Rockets, who will likely be picked behind defending MAC tournament champion Central Michigan in the West division, will begin next month with a Nov. 3 exhibition game against Ashland before hosting the Glass City Tournament on Nov. 9-10.

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