By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa’s march to the California junior college championship was anchored by low post stalwarts Krysten Copeland and Marie Sweet, helping both move on to play at four-year schools.

Copeland enjoyed a breakout season after playing sparingly her first year out of Santa Rosa High. Always a center, Copeland is honing her wing game for Southern Oregon, an NAIA program.

“I was determined to have a starting spot last season. That motivation led me to train harder,” Copeland said. “I’m looking forward to bringing that to next year’s team.”

The year at Santa Rosa was a turning point for Sweet, from Orange County. The former Sonoma State player found her way back in the classroom, earning another chance with the Seawolves, where she also expects to get most of her minutes on the perimeter.

“I wanted to go finish what I started, pretty much,” Sweet said. “It’s probably working out for the better. I’m stronger and a more complete player.”

The pair provided experience on a young SRJC team. Coming together after a tough nonleague schedule, the Bear Cubs won 21 of 22 to capture the state title.
Copeland and Sweet were shot-blocking, defensive anchors who also frequently cleaned up on the offensive end.

Often the tallest player on the court, Copeland realized her potential only after losing weight and adding muscle to become a quicker, stronger post player.

“I just wanted our team to do good and improve every aspect of my game. Toward the middle of the year I realized that I could probably play on,” Copeland said.

That she is ready was clear during Santa Rosa JC’s state semifinal win over Mt. San Antonio College, a rugged, low-scoring game.

“I’ve never had to play such hard defense and offensive effort. It was very brutal,” Copeland said.

Getting back into the game after sitting out a year took some work for Sweet, particularly because she added post play to her ability to shoot or drive as a wing.

Meshing with a new team was easier than expected. Sweet became a captain on a team with no superstars but plenty of ability.

“Talent helps, but when you’re playing together it brings a lot of positive energy,” she said. “It made me a better teammate.”