Despite injuries and late transfers, the Utah Valley women’s basketball team was competitive in 2022-23 with 14 of their 30 games being decided by 10 points or less.
“We’re in a great spot health wise,” Utah Valley head coach Dan Nielson said on the Straight Outta WAC Podcast. “I felt like we were kind of snake bit and got derailed pretty early but I’m proud of the girls for fighting through it.”
Nielson is encouraged by the experience his team brings to the coming year and some nice transfer portal additions as they look to move up the WAC standings.
“We’re a lot longer and more versatile and especially at the two, three, and four spots,” Nielson added.
Let’s dive into the Wolverines who will open with Weber State at home on November 6.
Dan Nielson, 5th Year
47-62 Overall, 32-33 WAC
6-24 Overall, 3-15 WAC (10th place)
- Kylee Mabry – 5’11, Sophomore, G
- Elina Tausinga – 5’10, Junior, F
- Saige Gibb – 5’10, Rs-Sophomore, G
- Eleyana Tafisi – 5’6, Junior, G
- Ally Criddle – 5’8, Junior, G
- Tahlia White – 6’0, Rs-Soph, G
- Hanna Roberts – 6’1, Rs-Junior, F
- Kaylee Byon – 5’7, Sophomore, G
- Halle Nelson – 6’1, Rs-Sophomore, F
- Tessa Chaney – 6’3, Sophomore, C
- Amanda Barcello – 5’11, Rs-Sophomore, G/F – BYU
- Jenna Dick – 5’8, Senior, G – Tarleton
- Noga Haran – 5’9, Freshman, G
- Liana Kaitu’u – 6’0, Rs-Senior, F – Portland
- Shay Fano – transfer to GCU
- Kayla Anderson – completed eligibility and became grad assistant at Southern Utah
- Jaeden Brown – transfer to Southern Utah
One thing that Dan Nielson and Utah Valley definitely have in their corner is experience. Kaylee Byon, Eleyana Tafisi, and Ally Criddle combined to make 65 starts last season while Kylee Mabry and Saige Gibb also averaged nearly 20 minutes per game. Nielson also gets Tahlia White back from injury and in 2021-22 she made 27 appearances while averaging nearly 20 minutes per game and shooting 30% from 3-point range.
“She was one of the silver linings to a tough year,” Nielson said of Byon who averaged 9.1 points per game as a freshman. “With the injuries, she ended up being a backup point guard but we found she thrived better off the ball because she has a scorers mentality.”
Like most coaches when it comes to their transfer portal approaches, Nielson went and added some solid upperclass experience with Dick and Kaitu’u. Dick is one of the WAC’s premier 3-point shooters who should bolster a perimeter attack that shot just 27 percent a year ago. Meanwhile, Kaitu’u brings size to a conference that is becoming increasingly a post player’s conference.
Utah Valley will start the campaign with two in-state opponents over the season’s first eight days in Weber State and BYU. In conference play, they’ll open with Seattle U on the road and Utah Tech at home. For their WAC/CUSA Alliance matchups, the Wolverines will play New Mexico State in Las Cruces and Sam Houston at home the week before Christmas Break. They return to WAC play with a New Year’s trip to CBU.
Last year Utah Valley was -12.8 in scoring differential, -5.3 in rebounding margin and -2.2 in turnover margin. Improvement in these areas along with staying healthy (last year’s Wolverine roster missed a combined 105 games) will be key to the Wolverines moving up the WAC leaderboard in 2023-24.
Check out Dan Nielson on the Straight Outta WAC podcast.