Tuesday, February 6, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 90



Lady Coogsi Sykes steps up

By Crystal J. Doucette
Daily Cougar Staff

The Lady Cougars were 7-21 overall last year, 3-13 in Conference USA.

This year, UH womenis hoops is 14-8 and 7-3 in conference.

Some people may think freshman guard Chandi Jones was the only factor in the Lady Coogs rise to the top -- but sheis just one player.

UH has six seniors on this seasonis team, women who remember the pain of a losing season and never want to experience it again.

Senior forward Moneit Sykes is one of those seniors.

Sykes came to UH as a junior transfer from Central Arizona Junior College with an NJCAA championship ring from her freshman year. Born in Lynwood, Calif., Sykes was a top player at Gahr High School in Cerritos, Calif.

Senior forward Moneit Sykes prepares to shoot against Alabama-Birmingham. Sykes pulled out a double-double and a new scoring high over the weekend.

Ann Richter/
The Daily Cougar

The Lady Cougar 1999-2000 season was a trial for the 21-year-old, especially with seven new personalities. Five of them, including herself, were juco transfers who were trying to blend with the returning players for head coach Joe Curl.

"It was hard for me to come together with the team because there were so many new people," Sykes said. "It was hard getting to know everybody and being sensitive to everybodyis needs."

Sykes, who helped raise her 6-year-old brother and 10-year-old sister, is no stranger to compromise or hardship. Her mother worked day shifts while her father worked nights as a peace officer.

"I lived in Compton, Calif., for 13 years," Sykes said. "Then we moved to Cerritos to have a little life. Then my grandmother got sick and we had to move back to Lynwood."

While her family switched neighborhoods in California, Sykes and the 2000-01 Lady Cougars worked during the summer of 2000 to improve their level of play and of confidence.

"Last year Iid say, ‘Letis go win a championship,i and theyid say ‘We canit do that. Weire not that good,i" Sykes said. "But this year, even if we lose, weire like, ‘Well, weire gonna win the next one.i"

And so they have.

The Lady Cougars blew out South Florida for their C-USA opener, then suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to Cincinnati in overtime for their second game. But UH pulled together and set out on a six-game winning streak, staking claim to first in the National Division and in conference.

Sykes was a spark off the bench last year, coming in to hit the boards and give the opponents a fresh defender to fight off. This year, sheis a major defensive and offensive component, leading the Lady Coogs on the boards (6.5 rpg) and holding second in scoring average (11.0 ppg).

"I may get too excited or too emotional in my game," she said. "My teammates, they know that; we have that bond where they understand that itis all good, and itis not negative."

Her shooting percentage has improved to 40.8 from 34.9 last season, and sheis played five double-doubles this season -- her first five in Division I play.

"I feel that Iive stepped it up a lot, trying to help my team win," Sykes said.

In Fridayis loss at Charlotte, Sykes hit 14 points with 10 rebounds, then hit a career-high 25 points with a team-leading seven rebounds in UHis loss at Saint Louis on Sunday. Although they were tough consecutive losses, the 5-11 communication major isnit going to give up, or let her team roll over.

"I want people to feel the way I feel," Sykes said. "Iim not a sore loser, but I just hate to lose. And losing isnit in my system; it isnit in my blood."

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