Friday night fever at Gavilan College

Women’s squad starts off night at 5:30 p.m. vs Yuwa.
GILROY – The Gavilan College women’s basketball team has gone through a complete transformation over the offseason with only one returning sophomore joined by a plethora of incoming freshmen.

“Last year we had low numbers, but players with experience. This year we have numbers, a lot of local kids, but we don’t have the experience,” second-year head coach Michelle Mannisto said. “I don’t quit know what to expect. They’re real coachable. They’re a nice group of girls. They’re learning a lot. I don’t know how it’s going to pan out.”

Mannisto – who guided the Lady Rams to a post-season berth last season before an ineligible player infraction caused them to forfeit their wins – will get her first true look at the new Gavilan blue crew in Friday night’s home opener against Yuwa College at 5:30 p.m.

“It’s going to be great to have them play. We’ve practiced a lot, but we haven’t had any games,” said Mannisto, whose squad will follow with a Saturday home game versus Sisykious College at 3 p.m. “I’m not expecting miracles. We’re prepared for everything. We’re probably going to struggle early and progress in games as we go along. We should be strong by conference.”

Friday night is also a double-header at Gavilan College as the men’s basketball team will take on Chabot College at 7 p.m.

Fans will also be treated to raffle of several prizes – including 50-inch Mitsubishi big screen television, a signed Jeff Garcia football, two tickets to the 49ers-Philadelphia game, two tickets to a Warriors game plus gear, and golf and dinner for four in Santa Cruz. There is a limit of 500 tickets – which can be purchased at any time before the drawing at halftime of the men’s game.

The new look Lady Rams are led by their freshman captain Nicole Donnelly, a guard out of Hollister, who returned this week from a stress fracture in her foot, and freshman point guard Stacey Perrien, of Hollister.

“We’re going to get (Donnelly) out there, but not right away,” Mannisto said. “(Perrien) is a real strong player. She drives well to the basket. She’s real good handling the ball.”

Freshman Keisha Webster – a 2002 Gilroy High graduate – brings some versatility to the table as she will play both guard spots as well as get many looks in the post. At Gilroy High, Webster was a forward and top rebounder.

“She’s got a lot of potential. She’s a real strong player with quickness,” said Mannisto of Webster. “She just hasn’t been exposed to different things. She’s going to get better and better. She’s strong on the blocks and she can run the point.”

Webster joins former Gilroy High teammate Antoinette Bowe – a sophomore forward who is the only returning player from last year’s Lady Rams’ unit.

“She’s got experience,” said Mannisto of Bowe. “She conditioned well over the off-season.”

There are two new Lady Rams out of Gilroy as freshmen Kristen Renard and April Due are on the opening roster. In addition, freshman Andrea Lupina, of Morgan Hill, Malika Reynolds, of Andrew Hill, and Noreen Bailey are aboard.

“(Bailey) is a real good shooter and she’s great on defense,” Mannisto said. “They’re all going to play. They’ve all worked really hard.”