Editor's Note: The 11th in a series of articles previewing women's basketball teams in the Pac-12 Conference.
Each of Oregon State’s last two seasons ended with a loss to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament.
After reaching the Elite Eight in 2018, the Beavers' women's basketball team lost to the Cardinal in the Sweet 16 last year.
“This is a highly competitive team that I can say didn’t end last year maybe quite as satisfied as they would have liked, but they are very motivated going into this year and that’s been a fun group to be around,” said Scott Rueck, who begins his 10th season as Oregon State's coach.
The Beavers return four starters from last season, including all-conference selections Mikayla Pivec and Destiny Slocum. OSU also hopes to get Kat Tudor back after she missed the second half of last season with a knee injury.
Oregon State is seventh in the preseason Associated Press poll as it prepares for the season with an exhibition against Team USA on Monday at Gill Coliseum.
“I love the expectations,” Rueck said. “That’s what we’re here for. It’s a familiar area for me. I like that better than the opposite when things are not expected. With this group, their expectations are extremely high, so this is just becoming the best team we can be every day.”
Oregon State got a head start on the season by taking an exhibition trip to Italy in August.
“The last time we did a foreign tour, four years ago, that year ended in a Final Four so we’d love a repeat of that,” Rueck said. “It was an awesome opportunity in every way.”
Slocum averaged 15.4 points and 4.5 assists as a sophomore in her first season with the Beavers after transferring from Maryland.
“As we went along throughout the season, I realized how important efficiency was,” Slocum said. “Taking care of the ball and making sure all my teammates were on the right track at all times. That’s one thing I’ve challenged myself to get better at is taking that point guard role, that leadership role.”
Pivec, a 5-foot-9 senior, averaged 15.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists last year. Junior Taya Corosdale and senior Madison Washington averaged 6.9 and 4.7 points per game, respectively, as starters.
Oregon State could line up the biggest front line in the country, including 6-7 sophomore Patricia Morris, 6-6 freshman Kennedy Brown and 6-4 freshmen Taylor Jones. Andrea Aquino and Jelena Mitrovic are both 6-9 freshmen, but Aquino has not been cleared for medical reasons while Mitrovic is working her way back from a knee injury.
Oregon State opens the season with four games in the preseason WNIT, beginning at home Saturday against UC Irvine.
“This team loves to compete,” Rueck said. “So to start with a tournament, I think is perfect for this group. There’s excellent teams throughout mid-major and Power 5 conferences so it is a great opportunity for us to grow quickly.”