Women’s basketball will rely on freshmen for improvement

Junior guard Minyon Moore sets up a play last season. Her sister, Mariya, will be eligible to play this year after sitting out as a transfer from Louisville. (Sunny Dong | Daily Trojan)

Women’s basketball will kick off its season against UC Riverside Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. at the Galen Center.

For a team that finished seventh in the Pac-12 last year, the Women of Troy enter the 2018 season with a lot to prove. They are coming off of a 20-win campaign, ending the season with a 9-9 record in conference play.

The Trojans bring back a strong veteran presence, as well some new faces this season. They will return two starters in senior guard Aliyah Mazych and junior guard Minyon Moore. As for the newcomers, USC will introduce freshmen forwards Jillian Archer and Desiree Caldwell.

There are many questions as to how the Trojans will do this season after the losses of star forward Kristen Simon and guard Jordan Adams, who started all 31 games for the Trojans last season, but the six new players on the roster will look to fill the void.

Mazych was part of the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team last year. In 2017, she made a USC single-season record 86 3-pointers, which moved her up to No. 8 all-time in career 3-pointers. In addition, Mazych was one of the main reasons that head coach Mark Trakh was able to have a 20-win season in his first season back at USC, as she played a total of 1,083 minutes. Mazych is expected to show her veteran leadership this season.

One of the most interesting players to keep an eye on this season, will be fellow senior Mariya Moore, who is in her first season at USC. Moore, a transfer from Louisville, sat out her first season with USC last year after previously playing three full seasons in a Cardinal uniform. She finished her sophomore season having started 32 of 34 games and ranking fifth in assists per game in the ACC. Moore found her way into Louisville’s top-10 single season lists in 3-pointers and free throws. Mariya’s junior sister, Minyon, has been at USC since freshman year.

Furthermore, the Trojans also have high expectations for true freshmen Archer and Caldwell. Archer, the 6-foot-2 forward out of Santa Monica comes to USC after a successful high school career where she was an All-CIF first team selection and CIF Player of the Year honorable mention.

Caldwell, the 5-foot-8 guard from San Antonio, Texas, was heavily recruited in high school. A member of the USA Basketball U18 Team, Caldwell won a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA U18 World Championships, an exclamation point to her dominant pre-college career.

Trakh enters his second season with the team. Previously coaching the Trojans between 2005-2009, he led the team to two NCAA tournaments, making it to the second round in both trips. Trakh is now looking to make it three NCAA tournament appearances as head coach for the Trojans, a feat that could be reached this season.

Coming into this new season, the Trojans have more depth than they have had in previous seasons. For a team that did not live up to expectations last season, Trakh will look to take advantage of having more options in his roster this year to make it to their first NCAA tournament since 2014. The Trojans will face the nation’s best in the Pac-12 this season, including Oregon, Stanford and UCLA.