After months of gearing up for the 2018-19 season, the UTEP women's basketball squad is ready to put their team out in front of fans and, more importantly, an opponent, as they face off against Western New Mexico in an exhibition matchup Saturday, Oct. 27, at 1:30 p.m. in the Haskins Center.

They will also be set to host Division II St. Mary’s on Sunday, Nov. 4 (1 p.m.). Admission is free for both exhibition games.

"We want to play anybody at this point, we don’t care who it is," said second-year head coach Kevin Baker. "We’ve been getting to know each other through the past four-five months. Now we need an opponent. Saturday thank goodness we’ll get one and we’re excited to see how we play."

UTEP returns four letter winners in senior forward Jordan Alexander (8.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg), junior forward Zuzanna Puc (9.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg), junior guard/forward Katarina Zec (9.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and sophomore point guard Jordan Jenkins (2.0 ppg, 1.4 apg).

"I think we’ve gotten better since we started practicing, but I think the day has finally come to show fans who we are and how good we are," said Zec. "We finally get to play our first exhibition game and our first game on Nov. 10. We’re really excited."

Two players that redshirted last year for the Miners will also join the squad this season. Junior guard/forward Ariona Gill and junior point guard Neidy Ocuane are eligible to play this year for the Miners, and for Gill, it is an opportunity for her to have a breakthrough season.

Baker called Gill one of the smartest decisions to redshirt throughout last year and is excited about what she brings to the team.

"It’s been a very great experience in my transition [from JUCO to UTEP]," Gill said. "It’s a whole nother level. It’s going great now going into my second year here. I bring a little bit of everything, like a 3 or 4, I play great with the team and the team plays great with me."

Newcomers on the team include freshman guard Eliana Cabral, sophomore guard Alexa Hoy, freshman guard Sabine Lipe, junior guard/forward Jade Rochelle, freshman point guard Conchi Satorre and freshman forward Ariana Taylor. While Cabral will sit out as a redshirt, the other five newcomers are eligible to play.

When setting up his rotation with the returnees and the newcomers, Baker said that the two exhibition games are helpful in creating lineups.

"The biggest thing we’re working on right now is chemistry," Baker said. "What lineups can fit with which lineups and who can play with who. We’re working on those types of things. Something that takes the longest is offensive execution. It takes time. We’re a work in progress but I like where we’re going and we’re talented."

Both Gill, Zec and Baker said the team can use these two scrimmages as tests for their defense as well.

"It could help improve our offense and defense and show where we need to improve," Gill said. "But Defense, you can’t stop working on defense. Defense wins games."

And although Baker has called this team "young, but very talented," Zec says this team has a firm grasp on playing "mature basketball."

"Young--he probably thinks because we have one senior, but we’re not that young," she said. "We have four juniors, so we play mature basketball and that’s what we want."

Tip-off for Saturday's game is slated for a 1:30 p.m. start in the Haskins Center.


More From 600 ESPN El Paso