2017 NAU Women's Basketball Senior Class Senior Day - Feb. 25, 2017

It Is the fall of 2013, and a group of eight recently graduated high school teenagers comprise a young, inexperienced Northern Arizona women's basketball team gearing up for the upcoming season.

Eight of 13 players on the 2013-14 roster are true freshmen with zero collegiate experience.

Immediately thrown into the fire out of necessity, this is where the 2017 Senior Class' story begins. A story of heart, perseverance and resilience.

"With this class being our first recruiting class when we got hired, we put a lot of time and energy into them in making sure that they would be the right fit. As freshmen, they only had one senior on the team so they didn't have a lot of upperclassmen who they could defer to. With all of the adversity they've faced, they've come to practice every day and remained positive." - Interim Head Coach Robyne Bostick

Just five of those eight freshmen remained the following fall. In the years that followed, those five have endured their fair share of adversity. Wins have been hard to come by, and an abrupt coaching change greeted them prior to their final season. But along with a sixth senior, who herself has faced adversity, they each have shown the true heart of a Lumberjack - and many examples of overcoming obstacles.

From left to right: Chelena Betoney, Brittani Lusain, Catelyn Preston, Rene Coggins, Taylor Leyva, Bradlee Cotton

THE CAPTAIN

Rene Coggins (Mesa, Ariz.) was counted on heavily from the start of her career, and she has answered the call since day one. Despite playing with a shoulder injury for more than a year, she has remained durable - and dependable - while also maintaining academic perfection in the classroom as a triple major in accounting, finance and hotel & restaurant management.

RENE COGGINS

  • Two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District 8 First Team and 2016 CoSIDA Academic All-America Third Team in addition to three Big Sky All-Academic selections and Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete awards
  • Just three points shy of becoming the 14th member of the school's 1,000 point club
  • Second all-time in school history in minutes played (3,755) and fourth in three-pointers made (157) as of Feb. 23
  • Standout game: Career-high 26 points at Lamar while making 7-of-11 three-pointers, coming up one shy of tying the school record (Nov. 23, 2016)
Rene has been very steady for us, that's the best way to describe her; but she's also improved a little every season. she has been the cornerstone of the program as our point guard. Her work ethic has never wavered and that's why she's been a captain since her freshman year. - Bostick
I'll remember my teammates - definitely the ones who stayed with me all four years. We came in as eight, lost a few and gained a few. BEING FROM ARIZONA, NAU GETS OVERLOOKED A LOT. THAT'S WHAT MAKES ME EVEN MORE PROUD TO WEAR THIS JERSEY AND CALL MYSELF A LUMBERJACK.
It's been the best of times, and the worst of times, but we've definitely overcome a lot of tough struggles. I know myself a lot better and i'm ready to take on the challenges of the future. i wouldn't Do anything different with my college experience.

THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE

Brittani Lusain (San Diego, Calif.) instantly inserted herself into the conversation of the conference's most versatile players when she was named the Big Sky Outstanding Freshman in 2014. Since then, she has etched her name among the program's most accomplished players as she is the only player in school history to rank in the top 10 of career rebounds and assists.

BRITTANI LUSAIN

  • Averaged 13.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game in her first season to become the sixth Lumberjack to receive the conference's Outstanding Freshman award
  • Fourth in career assists (362), seventh in rebounds (596) and ninth in both free throws made (242) and attempted (358) in NAU history as of Feb. 23
  • Needs 24 points to also join the 1,000 point club
  • Standout game: Scored 25 points - equaling a career-high - to go with 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks on the road at Montana (March 8, 2014)
Brittani is someone who as a freshman could do some things that other players in the conference couldn't do because of her versatility. she can rebound, she can set her teammates up with her passing and she can finish at the rim. her versatility has been a benefit for us as a team. - Bostick
My four years taught me that i'm stronger than i ever thought i could be. perseverance has been a big part of my four years. this has been an important learning experience for me, going through the ups and downs and i'm very fortunate.
More than myself, for the future of this program, for my sisters on this team and for this university, it would definitely mean a lot to win a big sky championship. If the chips don't fall that way, i will still leave having enjoyed my time here and i don't take anything for granted.

THE ENERGIZER

Catelyn Preston (Oregon City, Ore.) is playing her best basketball of late as her career comes to a close. She has recorded three of her five career double-doubles in each of the last three games while showcasing her trademark energy to spark the Lumberjacks on their current win streak.

CATELYN PRESTON

  • Earned three Big Sky All-Academic honors along with three Golden Eagle Scholar Athlete Awards
  • Recorded career-highs of 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in addition to career-best totals in assists (49), three-pointers made (17) and steals (20) last season as a junior
  • Has started last two games and is averaging 16.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game in her last three games overall (as of Feb. 23)
  • Standout game: Most recently, set a new career-high of 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting plus 11 rebounds against Sacramento State in her second-to-final home game (Feb. 23, 2017)
Catelyn brings a lot of energy and the team feeds off of her. she's someone who has started a lot of games, as well as come off the bench, but she'll bring that consistent energy regardless of her role. she has improved offensively and catelyn has always been someone who takes pride in her assists. - Bostick
A lot of things have been thrown my way, but over four years I've learned to accept my role whether I'M playing, not playing or starting. It's all about learning to overcome obstacles, understanding where you are and hopefully that helps you move up in life.
We've been resilient as a class. there were so many things that have happened and there were times I wanted to leave, but i'm so blessed and i'm in such a happy place right now.

THE SILENT ASSASSIN

Taylor Leyva (Pueblo West, Colo.) has been far from the most vocal player during her career at NAU, but she most definitely earned her teammates' respect by being voted one of the team's three captains this season. She broke through last season and transformed herself into one of the team's most valuable players.

TAYLOR LEYVA

  • Received Big Sky All-Academic distinction and named a Golden Eagle Scholar Athlete in each of her first three seasons to date
  • Exploded to average 8.3 points per game last season with 11 double-digit games after scoring a total of 51 points in her first two seasons combined
  • Seventh in school history in career three-point percentage (.352) as of Feb. 23 and eighth in single season three-point shooting (.377) during junior year
  • Standout game: Made her first nine field goal attempts on her way to her only career 20-point game with 23 points at North Dakota (Jan. 21, 2016)
Taylor does a lot of things that don't show up on the stat sheet. as a freshman, she started a number of games because she was setting good screens and wasn't forcing things on offense. each year, she's accepted her role, whether it's doing the dirty work and the little things or stepPING up TO score and rebound. she can do it all. - Bostick
I'll remember the people, especially the seniors, because we've been through a lot together. We're all unique in our own way, and they're definitely a group of people i'll never forget.
It means a lot to be a Lumberjack because it was a great opportunity for me to come here and play a sport that i love while getting an education. i can never thank NAU enough for that. my coaches AND the academic staff have all played a huge role in my success as a student-athlete.

THE BLUE COLLAR WORKER

Bradlee Cotton (Denver, Colo.) fits the profile of a physical post player and it is a role that she has embraced with the Lumberjacks. While not necessarily one to put up flashy stats in the box score, her work ethic and penchant to do the dirty work in the paint has earned her increased playing time as her career has progressed.

BRADLEE COTTON

  • A Golden Eagle Scholar Athlete Award recipient and Big Sky All-Academic honoree three years running
  • Set a new career-high for games started this season (22) as well as points scored (90), rebounds (102) and field goals made (39) as of Feb. 23
  • Recorded three double-digit scoring games this season to eclipse her previous career-high of eight points to begin the season
  • Standout game: Notched her first double-figure scoring effort of 10 points and matched her career-high, at the time, of six rebounds versus Youngstown State (Nov. 28, 2016)
Bradlee is a very unselfish player and she's always been willing to do whatever we've asked of her. If we need her to set solid screens or guard the other team's best post player, she's going to do it. she likes the physicality of the game and she's been a workman for us. - Bostick
Being a Lumberjack is a really big deal because Lumberjacks have a lot of qualities - strength, perseverance, determination and work ethic - that I hope to take with me through the rest of my life.
These four years were some of the hardest I've had to get through, but it's going to help me succeed. winning a championship is a goal for all of us. it's a dream that we're all ready for and we're peaking at the right time to really make a move.

THE INSPIRATION

Chelena Betoney (Pine Springs, Ariz.) has only been part of the Lumberjack women's basketball program for one year, but it very well could have been four. After missing the cut at her tryout as a freshman, her turn came calling as a senior - and an opportunity bloomed to not only live out a dream but make a lasting impression on her teammates and coaches.

CHELENA BETONEY

  • Narrowly missed the cut in her attempt to walk on to the team as a freshman before successfully doing so the second time around this past fall
  • Respected by all involved with the program due to her consistent work ethic and positive spirit
  • Appeared in three games this season versus Antelope Valley, Youngstown State and Montana State
  • Standout game: Her long awaited collegiate debut was a spirited and energizing three minutes in NAU's school record win versus Antelope Valley in which she recorded a steal (Nov. 13, 2016)
Chelena brings it every single day. As a walk-on, that can be a tough position, but she gives the same effort every practice. she doesn't complain about anything, and appreciates being on the team. she's been a real pleasure to coach this year. - Bostick
I can't change what happened during my tryout as a freshman. it was just another bump in the road though, and it motivated me to try again my senior year. i know i'm very blessed to be a part of this team. there's not many people who can say that they were a division i student-athlete.
being a walk-on is tough especially in my case being the new girl on the team and having to get to know teammates who have known each other for so long. my teammates always encourage me on and off the court. as a walk-on, my advice is that your teammates can learn as much from you as you can learn from them.

The last four years have not always been the smoothest of rides, but with this senior class determined to end their careers on the highest of notes, the sky is the limit for the 'Jacks as they approach the conference tournament in Reno.

It is now the spring of 2017, and a grizzled class of six seniors are guiding a veteran Northern Arizona women's basketball team who is searching for a well-deserved feel-good ending.

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