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The McNeese State Cowgirls begin a new era, one without the all-Southland Conference talents of twins Ashlyn and Caitlyn Baggett. They open the season Nov. 8. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

The McNeese State Cowgirls begin a new era, one without the all-Southland Conference talents of twins Ashlyn and Caitlyn Baggett. They open the season Nov. 8. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Twins are gone, but Baggett name carries on

Last Modified: Friday, November 01, 2013 1:18 PM

By Albert Burford / American Press

The McNeese State’s solution to the departure of the Baggett twins may come in the form of another family member. Younger sister Allison Baggett could be one of the weapons who can help McNeese make up for the loss of her sisters to graduation.

The sophomore guard averaged just over six points per game in her freshman season.

“Certainly, from last year’s results, and so far in the offseason and preseason and heading into the first game next week, Allison Baggett has been a threat offensively,” said Cowgirls head coach Brooks Donald Williams. “She had a fantastic freshman year and she’s just carried that right on to her sophomore season. She’s stronger, she’s very confident right now and she’s shooting the ball very well.”

Baggett will get some help from senior forward Cecilia Okoye, who transferred to McNeese as a junior and averaged nine points and seven rebounds a game last season.

Okoye said she’s more comfortable entering this season and knows the program better than she did last year.

“She has that look in her eye right now,” Williams said. “She’s really preparing herself well and I feel like she’s going to be a threat as well.”

Okoye and fellow upperclassmen have had their hands full trying to get six freshmen up to speed before the season opener Nov. 8 against Wiley College.

“All seniors and all returners definitely want to step up and show the newcomers how the program works,” Okoye said. “All of us have been bringing them on well and they’ve been successful, getting it pretty fast.”

Williams also said senior center Netanya Jones has done a good job of being a vocal leader and easing the transition for all the young players.

For freshman guard Amer Donnes, it’s important for her more experienced teammates to relate with the freshmen as they learn the ropes.

“If the defense is struggling, coach will get on us, then (an upperclassman) will pull us aside and be like, ‘We did the same mistakes,’” Donnes said. “It’s very encouraging to know they made the same mistakes and it’s all good. They’ve done a good job of making me fit in for sure, but I see everyone else filling in their roles and seeing where they fit in.”

Williams said some of the freshmen have been impressing her early on.

“Just from pure effort, (Donnes) is going to get a lot of opportunities,” Williams said. “She’s been the front-runner I think as far as her consistency in her effort. She makes a lot of mistakes, like they all do. Her effort has been there day in and day out and we feel like we can put her in and trust her at any position on the floor because of that. She has definitely earned some playing time right off the bat. All of them certainly have potential.”

Williams also said freshman guard Victoria Rachal is “a bomb waiting to go off,” and fellow freshman guard Haily Jenkins could contribute right away.

The Cowgirls are loaded with guards and Williams said they will continue to play as an up-tempo team, as they have in years past.

“We really like to drive and kick and shoot the three,” Williams said. “We also really like to hunker down and guard too. We feel like this group certainly has that in them as well. We’ve recruited that way since we’ve been in here.”

Confidence may be crucial for McNeese early in the season as it tries to find its way without two leaders its relied on in recent years.

Williams said the Cowgirls are taking small steps to build that confidence.

“This week, we’ve really turned a corner where the kids can see they’re getting better every day,” Williams said. “They can feel and it and there’s nothing better in a coaches’ mind to see that in a kid when they can see just a little bit of improvement. When you can see that, you have a lot more enthusiasm and passion for what you’re doing.”

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